The Iron Man
Tue, 22 Apr 2003 02:59:31 -0000 (GMT)
The Iron Man
Today Edith lounged around the 5th, went to the Zion Lodge on the shuttle and checked out some stores just outside Zion Park. It was my day to go hiking. After the Grand Canyon backpacking experience I packed light, very light. It took my jacket with a little food in one pocket and a water bottle in the other and my digital camera. I put duct tape on the Grand Canyon spots and wore shorts and of course my hiking boots with hiking socks. I took the shuttle to the Grotto and visited with a couple of girls who were also going up to Angels Landing and then to Bryce Canyon. I told them it is a long ways to Bryce and told them the best spots to see and about the Navajo trail as they wanted to take a short hike in Bryce. They need to take a lesson from a guy who has learned you can only do and see so much in ONE DAY! I am learning!
The trail to the top of Angel Landing is 2.5 miles and it is listed as very difficult on the hiking guide. Angel's Landing is about a 2000 foot vertical rise and it very, very narrow at the top! I set off at a brisk pace and soon was to the first set of switch backs and they were just as tough as the ones on the Bright Angel Trail coming up the south side of the Grand Canyon but the surface is better and not as long. No one passed me and I passed several so I was feeling like my conditioning had ARRIVED! I hit the top of the switch backs and had a breather hiking pretty much on the level in a slot canyon around to the northwest side of Angel Landing and arrived at what is called the Walter Wiggles and it is a series of many, many steep, short switchbacks. Again it went well! I was now on top of the first section of the ridge with the second part in the distance that was higher and I could see people going up it.
Suddenly it got VERY INTERESTING! I came upon the chains! These chains were attached to steel pipes that were in the rock and the purpose was so you did not fall 1500 foot off the edge of the mountain and I MEAN THAT VERY, VERY literally! I followed the chains along on a very vertical surface of rocks and caught up with a young girl! She was really shook! I told her to take her time and not look down so much! The old tower climbing came in handy but even so looking down 1500 foot is a different feeling than 100 or 200 foot. You are just as dead but it definitely has a different feel. Once in awhile you would kick a rock and it would go and go and go and eventually you could see it falling but could not hear it.
Things are going fine and we find a level place between the area I am on and the final push up to the highest point. Very interesting, no chains and it is about 5 feet wide, TOTAL, THAT IS IT and 1500 foot down on both sides. Not a spot to get dizzy at! I have no idea why there were no chains there! TO ME THAT WAS THE DANGEROUS SPOT! Up the final climb, hanging on the chains and again if you let loose of the chain and start sliding you are very likely a goner; although I bet you could scratch up the rocks pretty good trying to get a hold someplace. It would be the ultimate thrill if you lived to tell about it!
Now the sheer cliff face rock climbers with their caribeaners, rope and other technical equipment and sleeping on a hanging cot at night did not seem so bad. I hit the top which was about 30 feet wide and kind of rounded so one could hike out to the end in good shape. It seemed pretty mild now although without the conditioning coming up it would not of seemed so comfortable. I had a great visit people up there, took all kinds of pictures and had lunch. I had been nursing my one liter water bottle and still had about 1/2 left so I was feeling good about that. BTW took me 1 hour and 15 minutes for the whole trip to the top so I am feeling like my conditioning has finally arrived. After about 30 minutes I head down and then you face the 1500 foot down edges so again it is good that you have got somewhat conditioned to the heights but I definitely held on to the chain. Quite a group going down and really started meeting people coming up. I got across the 5 foot wide spot, still did not care for that and then the reverse down getting down in about 1 hour as I took a lot more pictures coming down as going up I never stopped to rest other than to take a few pictures.
I got back down, filled my water bottle at the Grotto area, it was empty and decided it was early and I was feeling good so I was going to hike to Observation Point which is an 8 mile round trip and about 3000 feet vertical elevation and you end up around 8000 feet elevation. When the shuttle was approaching the trail head there was a big commotion as there was a California Condor Sighting. I quickly got of the shuttle and found where it was being viewed setting in a tree. It was definitely a California Condor the largest bird in North America. A fellow from Ohio let me look in his field glasses and between the two of us found where the number band was. It was number 35 which you can look up on the Internet. These were down to 27 birds a few years ago and SLOWLY rebuilding! I told the fellow I had just got down from Angels Landing and was going to Observation Point. He was impressed and said I must be tough. He had done both but NOT ON THE SAME DAY. He told me about the trail to Observation Point and how great ECHO CANYON was on the way up. From where we stood it looked like one huge cliff but actually back in there is a huge slot canyon that is as nice as he had ever seen. ARMED WITH ALL THE INFORMATION I WAS OFF! A group of 4 college kids on spring break blasted on ahead of me but I had decided I was going to not press so hard on this since it was the second climb of the day. Well they would go like crazy but have to rest and I just kept going steadily up, up, up switchback after switch back, never level just up and up and I would catch them and then they would take off again and it went that way all the way up. After about 45 minutes I got to Echo Canyon an it was even better than the fellow from Ohio had led me to believe. It was awesome! I can not describe it so you will just have to see the web page pictures after I get home to put them up. I Warn you though, pictures just do not do justice to scenery as you don't get the depth perception!
Then I hit the final switch backs which were tough, again tougher than coming out of the Grand Canyon except the trail was a little smoother. By now I am on mile 4.5 of CONTINUOUS STRAIGHT UP for the day! The sights were great! If you really want to see ZION you need to do these hikes! We are about 1/2 mile from the top according to the one college kid who has done the trail before and I am ahead and I decide I have to take my first rest climbing up for the day. The altitude is starting to take is toll, my lungs are burning and my ears are plugged! MUST OF BEEN FROM CLIMBING SO FAST THEY DID NOT HAVE A CHANCE TO ADJUST! Just KIDDING! I am starting to really feel it and I am sitting on my butt with my back against the rock wall and the college kids come by! They definitely were slowed down but were amazed I was sitting there resting. I guess they had noticed that I never stopped and they had been talking and wondering how long I could go before I had to rest. They knew I had already done Angels Landing today! In that last 1/4 mile of wicked switch backs I rested several times, the wind would just blast from the north something crazy in a down draft fashion. I hit the top and had about 1 miles to go pretty much on the level as it was pretty flat on top! When I got to Observation Point the college kids were there and gave a big cheer for me and called me the IRON MAN! That is definitely a STRETCH but it was nice of them! The edge was definitely off and I was about out of my liter of water and no food. We took pictures for each other and I took lots of shots up and down Zion Valley. One could look down on ANGELS LANDING. The one college kid got a picture of me with ANGELS LANDING BEHIND AND BELOW ME WITH THE VALLEY IN THE BACKGROUND where I had been earlier in the day! They headed out and I followed not to long afterwards and I never seen them again. I found out that 59 year old knees don't go down hill running like 20 year olds! I did not want a wrenched knee. It took me two hours to get to the top and 1 hour and 45 minutes to the bottom and 15 minutes on Observation point for a total of 4 hours. It is listed as a 5 to 8 hours hike and given it was my second hike of the day I am well satisfied. Going down was relatively easy, blisters were not a problem but I did run out of water so was definitely dry when I hit the bottom.
>From now on we go on no trips with out my day pack and back pack as well as other camping gear!
I got a couple to take a picture of me at the bottom by the trail map. This is after 13 miles of hiking with about 1/2 of it being CONTINUOUS UP, no leveling out! I defintely am not an IRON MAN but I am happy to say that my conditioning program has arrived! I can improve a lot but definitely have come a long ways!
I would highly recommend these hikes BUT NOT ON THE SAME DAY and only if you are in good condition! ZION on the highway is beautiful, hiking ZION the view is FANTASTIC!
When I got to the 5th wheel I rested on the couch, drank some water and really bounced back. I then ate some supper and suddenly I was really tired and laid on the couch for about 1/2 hour. I then took a shower and then sat down and typed this travelogue. I am FEELING GREAT! The body is a marvelous thing how it can recover from extreme exertion!!! I stretched out several times and again after getting back. The real test will come in the morning! In the next travelogue I will give you an honest report. Given I almost had to scream to walk when stepping down after coming out of the canyon this will be a real check!