Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 5: Zion NP

Day 5: Zion NP

Quote of the day: Death is the king of this world: 'Tis his park where he breeds life to feed him. Cries of pain are music for his banquet.
George Eliot

Pics: All from Angel’s Landing hike, then the pool at the Desert Pearl.

Not a great night’s sleep, guess I was worrying about Angel’s Landing hike. Breakfast in the room, free. DB drops me at the Visitors Center, and I am at the trailhead by 8:30 (or so, no watch for THB). Basically you climb straight up using a series of switchbacks until you get to the base camp, a bit over 2 miles, maybe a little more (no rounding). All those years on the elliptical must be working, I make the trek without stopping.

Pause here while you go and watch Touching the Void and re-read Into Thin Air.

Now that you’re back, I can see that I am in very deep yogurt. Toooooooo deep. There are a series of chains (links are thicker than an inch, not reassuring at all) that are on short poles and run along the side of the cliff, just below the ridge. There are breaks where there is no chain between the poles. Insurmountable breaks. People are setting off holding on. THB sets off, holding on. To not hold on appears to not be an option. Setting off did not appear to an option. I am mystified by the lack of control: no disclaimers, no rangers, no nothing to persuade you to turn around. Just that thing that sits on top of your shoulders and below your hat.

Truism: God gives hats to some who have no heads

Away I go…not looking down (much), not looking up (much), and assiduously studying the immediate surface just in front of my hands and feet (all the damn time). At one point, there was no trail, just a gap of about 6 inches, which you skimmed over while holding on to the chain.

Finally, after 15 minutes to 3 hours or so, I get to spot where you can sit down and contemplate your options (more options…NOOOOOOOOO!): you can keep going out the ridge to the final resting spot (hopefully on the ridge, cuz either side of the ridge the resting spot is a long ways down).

Or, you can do what I and several other people did: declare the war over, announce success, total victory, and head back. There’s a picture of me that is hard to tell it is me: there is a small figure sitting down at the end of what looks like a chain leading upwards. There’s another of me holding on to the chain and walking towards the camera. The guy that took the picture said he used to be a rock climber, took a bad fall, then got the jitters. And he made it to base camp 2! His daughter is out there in the void, on her way to the Landing.

He took the picture after starting back. I join him and eat some snacks. Anything to delay the trouble coming every day, delay the trouble coming every day. Now larger groups of people have arrived and set off towards the Landing. That means when you meet someone on the chain, you have to hold on with one hand, put your other on the other side of their body, let go with the trailing hand, and reattach that hand to the chain on the other side of their body. At no time do I let go of the chain with both hands.

At one point, there is nobody coming towards me and nobody behind me and I cannot figure out the route. The chain has ended. Then I spy the chain about 15 thousand feet below me and start sliding down on my ass (one of the pics shows how it is done, a great demonstration by someone I don’t know). They say the red rock color doesn’t wash out of your clothes. The good news is that I am wearing my dark blue workout shorts. Even better, if I have to use my shorts as a flotation device, then they will be easy to wash out.

Here’s the joke (which I told the guy with the jitters): They always announce on an airplane that in case of an emergency landing over the ocean, you can use your seat as a flotation device. Some guy on the plane yells out: I am going to use mine as a toilet if this plane is actually having an emergency landing.

I make it back to base camp (you’ve figured that out), retrace my steps down the mountain, get on the park shuttle, transfer to the Springdale shuttle, make it back to the Desert Pearl Inn for a very refreshing dip in the pool and lunch with ever-cheerful DB, who has had a fun-filled morning doing the laundry and some recreational shopping.

Lunch in the room (free), a drive out the east side of the park and back to catch the vistas (extraordinary, of course), a dip and nap by the pool (or, in my case, a nap and then a dip), then we rent our equipment for tomorrow’s hike in a river through a canyon (the Narrows), and finally dinner: trout, half a chicken, wine and beer, a salad, $83.


  1. Hey Ralph, I don't recall saying the hike would be easy but I do recall saying that it could be quite a thrill. Adrenalin rush, anyone?

    You made it MUCH further than my husband - he stopped at the restrooms and, after looking at the chain links, was very content waiting while I went on...


  2. wow- you made it back by lunch? and you survived?

    wow. i'm not sure i'm ready for day 6.

  3. C: your reco's have been terrific!!! and, fortunately, many more to come...thx THB