Jun 17, 2013

Great Hikes- Zion Angels Landing



Zion National Park is a peaceful sanctuary and home for very interesting cliffs and canyons. It also offers few most terrific hikes which excite the visitors beyond imagination. All NPS employees talk about it ... Every visitor wonders about it ... many want to hike it ... few complete it ... and the name is Angels Landing (5,790ft) or earlier known as Temple of Aeolus! At a height 1,488ft above the canyon floor the cliff provides spectacular views of Zion Canyon. Insanely popular, most terrific, most gratifying and most scenic hike I have ever completed. Here is  my story of hiking to the top of knife-edge cliff and back ...

View from Angels Landing

As I had mentioned in my Zion NP travelogue I experienced heavy rainstorm every afternoon. The canyon was almost soaked. For the Angels Landing hike which is 2.4-miles long one way, I woke up very early to avoid crowds. I took a shuttle to Grotto Picnic Area drop off where the trail begins. Initially, the trail goes flat along the river and then begins the steep climb with numerous switchbacks called Walter's Wiggles (set of 21 compact switchbacks).

Angels Landing Cliff
Well, I was all excited about the strenuous hike and was impressed by its insane popularity. I remembered the ranger officer's reaction the day before. He had advised me to be very careful. I wondered what could possibly go wrong.

I went up those switchbacks with not much of pain though it was hot. I had carried plenty of water and trail-mix with me. I still kept wondering why would anyone hype such an easy short hike. At one lookout point I saw few hikers sitting, standing all around. I wondered why? I was at Scout's Lookout which is at 2-mile distance from the trailhead. I looked at where everyone was looking. I remember myself saying just WoW! and nothing else. I was speechless to see that narrow-and-tall cliff. I saw very few hikers scrambling up/down with their hands and feet on the narrow cliff's spine. When I was standing there, I heard an elderly couple contemplating! To go or not to go! Scout's Lookout is actually a chicken-out-point point for many :)

Trail up towards Scout's Lookout
I thought ... when many other hikers can do it, I could also do it and with an act of instinct I went on ... Initially, I didn't think it was very bad. As the height increased and the trail got steeper, it was scary yet fascinating! 

At places a chain anchored to the metal poles, installed by NPS, to help hikers to hold-on on the narrow parts of the trail. There is a steep and narrow trail on the spine of the cliff which is very scary because on either side there are sheer drop-offs of about 1,500ft. It was terrifying at places but, I reached the top. I wasn't sure to be happy or not! I was happy that I made it to the top to witness such breathtakingly beautiful views around and it was worth all the trouble but, I was also uncomfortable on that narrow patch of land under my feet at that height. I wanted to enjoy the views for some more time but, I couldn't stand there for long. I felt my head was reeling. Also I saw few clouds accumulating on one side of the sky. I took few pictures and started descending. I wanted to be back at the base before it started raining again.

Knife-edge cliff
The trail which looked fairly good while climbing, suddenly looked deadly on the way back! The drops on the either side looked much more deep now. I was clearly nervous. And thats it! I had difficulty now. It was real life not a scary ride in an amusement park which will get over in a second without me doing anything! 

Every step down was a nightmare! I never had height fear but, a small doubt in the beginning of the descent had grown big and it was growing bigger and bigger, and was consuming me. Even before I realized, my right foot lost the grip and I slid slightly forward. In that split second I thought I was going to die. I held on to the metal pole tightly. A man from behind yelled out loudly ... hold on to it ... I pulled myself back.  Though I didn't fall towards the edge it was scary to lose control. I was clearly shivering with cold hands and feet and sweating profusely. I sat there clinging to the pole with eyes filled with tears. At that moment the pole looked like God to me.

A senior couple who passed me were worried for me but, they couldn't stay there for more than few seconds. I had to move and I did until I found a tree to cling to. I was in shock and shaken. I sat there for sometime to drink water. My throat was all dry. I finished the whole bottle of water as if it was my last drink. Then I scrambled down slowly and finally reached Scout's Lookout! I was happy to be alive! 

View from Angels Landing
I slept there for sometime. I covered my face with a scarf to protect my eyes from direct sunlight and also to hide my tears. Strangely, soon after that I was strong again and didn't feel scared or nervous anymore! Well, now I wasn't on that narrow cliff anyway :)

I watched people who were so enthusiastic about climbing the cliff. I wondered ... Will all of them return so very happy? How many of them would return like me? Are these hikers taking the trouble to enjoy the incredible views or just to prove they are not scared? How many of them freeze with fear clinging to the chain and obstruct the traffic? I didn't have height fear but with one slide forward I was terrified, so how many of them will realize that they might get scared? Will all those who got scared admit it? ... millions of thoughts passed my mind. My thought process was cut short by a caring voice ... Glad to find you here young lady ... Are you okay? ... you are one brave girl to do it all alone ... 

Walter's Wiggles
The senior couple (Abigail and Gilbert) who saw me back at the cliff were looking for me. When they found me they were happy and said few kind words and wished me luck in all my future endeavors. Before leaving they mentioned there is a spot, 0.8-mile uphill from Scout's Lookout, from where one could see the Walter's Wiggles and if I wanted I could join them. I thought of checking it out. The view was fantastic. I took one photo and said goodbye! By then the clear sky turned dark and I started to hike back to the base. It started raining by the time I reached the campsite. It rained heavily all the day! It kind of gave me time to think about the hike. If you do not have height fear and if you are in a good shape only then try this hike.

Based on my experience I have few words of advice though, I wouldn't say not to go for it, never! But, if you get terrified and start shivering, just sit wherever you are for sometime and then return. It is not going to get any better. It is not a must-do destination risking life. And who are we proving our bravery to after all? The beauty of the canyon could be enjoyed in many other safer ways! 

Note: Other destinations in this roadtrip- Grand Canyon NPAntelope Slot Canyon, Wupatki Ruins and Sunset Crater, Horseshoe BendBryce Canyon NPZion NP, and Zion Subway hike.
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Related articles-
Lassen Volcanic National Park, The land of volcanoes!
Sequoia National Park, The land of giants!
Kings Canyon National Park, Rugged beauty
Dogwood Blooms at Yosemite
National Parks of USA.

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

31 comments:

  1. Interesting trek!

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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    1. Yes, it is 'much more' than interesting!

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  2. Walter's wiggles, and scout lookout pictures are breathtaking! And I'm sure it's an adrenaline rushing moments both climbing up and down! i'm totally in love with such adventures. Glad you did great after that moment of slip!

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    1. Thanks Anu, it was something I would long for, but at the same time I would say- will never go back!

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  3. the scenery alone is worth it. but i know my limitations and my fear of heights - that combination would be difficult to set aside, so I'm likely not going to do this hike.

    although i was just hiking up on the hill going from one hill to another yesterday and pretty narrow paths too, but that's just what i can handle.

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    1. Thanks May, It is wise to know and admit our own limitations! Hope you had a great hike yesterday!

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  4. Great scenes!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  5. Wow that view is breathtaking.

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  6. Wow, this sounds like a awesome and terrifying trail all at the same time. I enjoyed reading your story. And I am glad you made it safely to the top and back down. Wonderful photos.

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    1. Exactly, awesome and terrifying! Thanks Eileen!

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  7. Good job! I can relate because I grew up in the east in closed canopy forests and small mountains. Then my first wife and I got jobs in L.A. We spent our first Christmas out west hiking the Grand Canyon. Seriously, if you are not used to that much space, it is freaky, freaky, freaky! And the first thousand feet down, the trail was icy and covered with mule pooh!After the second day, I was totally fine.

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    1. Thank you Steve! You must have had a great time hiking Grand Canyon!

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  8. What a beautiful and amazing place, Kusum, and your captures are superb as always!! You're a brave lady to have made the trek!!! Glad you made the trip safely!! Thanks for sharing the beauty and the adventure!!

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    1. Thank you Sylvia. Glad you liked my post!

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  9. Very elaborate post, couldn't read through the entire thing, but loved seeing the pics!

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  10. Amazing shots ... and views!

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  11. Splendid shot! Post written very well with a great experience.

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  12. This is a really splendid post - and its added another place to the list - the knife edge looks wonderful. Luck you!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart! Yes, you take an year of time off from work and visit every small place here, they are so very wonderful!

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  13. Wow, so beautiful! There are some things we must experience - like a hike, for example - in order for us to grasp the true beauty of creation. It's in those moments that take our breath away when we discover what it means to push ourselves to the limit. Great story about your hike - I found much anticipation while reading along. Glad your safe, blessings to you & have a great week!

    xoxo,
    Allie @ Framed by God
    http://framedbygod.blogspot.com/

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