Climbing Canyons and Cliffs

Zion National Park - October 2004

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The Three Patriarchs
A series of towering peaks - known as the Three Patriarchs - watch over the entrance to the main canyon at Zion. The area was named Zion ('place of refuge') by early Mormon settlers. It became a National Monument in 1909 and a National Park in 1919.

A River runs through it
Millions of years ago, this area was a desert and later a shallow sea whose sandy deposits created deep layers of sandstone and siltstones. Millions of years of erosion by wind, ice, rain, and the Virgin River created the magnificent gorges, cliffs, and canyons seen today.

View from Weeping Rock
At Weeping Rock, water percolating down through the sandstone hits a layer of less permeable rock and emerges from the cliff face as a series of seep springs thate create a curtain of water across a large moss-filled alcove in the rocks.

Scary Trail to Hidden Canyon
From Weeping Rock, the trail to Hidden Canyon climbs up the step canyon slope and eventually winds along the cliff face on narrow ledges. Chains bolted to the rock help hikers avoid a five hundred foot mis-step.

And then it gets Worse
After you think that you are through the worst of it, the trail makes one last curve along a sheer cliff face. It is probably about a thousand feet straight down at this point. I'm not sure though, as I was pretty much hugging the inside wall the whole way.

Hidden Canyon
Finally the trail enters into Hidden Canyon... a narrow near-slot canyon hidden high up on the side wall of the main Zion Canyon. Hidden Canyon wanders about a mile back into the mountain side.

Angels Landing
Near the center of the main canyon, a 1500 foot high peak - known as Angels Landing - extends out from the western wall into the main canyon floor. The trail to the top winds up the small saddle to the left and then climbs to the top from the backside of the peak.

Starting Up Angels Landing
The two and half mile trail to the top of Angels Landing begins with a steep (but paved) climb up the saddle that connects the peak to the canyon wall. In places, the trail was carved directly into the cliff wall.

Looking Up and Down Walter's Wiggles
From the top of the saddle, the trail ascends the side of Refrigerator Canyon to Scout Point with a series of step-like switchbacks known as 'Walter's Wiggles' (named for the park superintendent when the trail was built in 19xx).

Angels Landing from Scout Point
From Scout Point, the trail turns into a chain-assisted rock scramble up the narrow ridge leading to the summit. In several places, the 'trail' winds along narrow stone ledges with sheer cliffs on either side. This is a great place to test your fear of heights... turns out that mine is working just fine.

Looking North from the Top of Angels Landing
The moments of sheer stark terror was worth it to reach the top and take in the incredible views. This is looking northward toward the narrows of the inner canyon.

Looking South from the Top of Angels Landing
The view south toward the mouth of Zion Canyon was equally breath-taking (not that I had much breath left at that point). The flat-topped peak on the far left is the famous 'Great White Throne'. The park lodge can be faintly seen in the canyon botton far below.

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