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[personal profile] mattbell

Angel's Landing is the sort of trail that would probably never get built today.  The last section of the trail goes along an extremely narrow ridge with 1000' dropoffs on both sides, with only an occasional chain to help you keep your balance.  I was last here when I was 12 or so, and was too scared to complete the trail.  Thus, there was extra significance behind my return to the trail.  The challenge bar had been set a lot higher though -- in winter this trail is snowy and often icy, and the snow is often deceptive in hiding cliffs, crevices, and other dangerous locations.  I bought some Ice Trekkers traction control devices for my feet, but they turned out to be somewhat inadequate in dealing with the worst situations -- slick icy slopes.  It's hard to get a good view from a distance of this last part of the trail, but I did manage to take a very zoomed in picture from another trail that gives a sense for it.  If you look really close, you can see a person making her way along the ridge.


Zion in Winter  Zion in Winter
Zion in Winter  Zion in Winter  Zion in Winter
Fear was my constant companion as I made my way across.  I was acutely aware of the tiniest slipping of my feet, and moved extremely carefully as I contemplated both the physics of my motions and my intuitive rock climber sense of my movement.  Having this extended exercise of constant fear let me play with how I dealt with the fear; this situation was a reasonable one in which to be fearful, but some flavors of fear are more productive than others, and I was able to analyze what generated the different types of fear. 

I met some other people with better traction control devices -- I had chosen a good all-around solution that handled all kinds of terrain, but the trail really demanded long spikes for better control on ice. 

I climbed up the tree at one of the peaks and surveyed the view.  It was a hell of a drop.  The view was fantastic though.

Zion in Winter  Zion in Winter
Zion in Winter
  Zion in Winter
Zion in Winter  Zion in Winter

Angel's Landing isn't the only harrowing hike in Zion.  Here's Hidden Valley:

Zion in Winter

You call this a trail?  Oh right, I came in winter and am doing all this at my own risk.  Self-reliance is a good trait to develop.

Date: 2011-01-12 08:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What constitutes a trail being "built"?

Date: 2011-01-12 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In steep areas, a narrow path is cut into the rock slope. Chains are added. Small bridges are added. Ditches and wood stairsteps are created to prevent erosion.

Date: 2011-01-12 10:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So this requires the route to be designated as an official trail and a path of sorts being built, as opposed to just being an obvious ridge that people follow?

Date: 2011-01-12 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It could be an obvious ridge that people follow, but then it would be a technical rock climbing route instead of a trail.

Date: 2011-01-12 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2011-01-12 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A few things..
1)re "Having this extended exercise of constant fear let me play with how I dealt with the fear; this situation was a reasonable one in which to be fearful, but some flavors of fear are more productive than others, and I was able to analyze what generated the different types of fear." -- I understand this experience completely -- I had the same sort of experience when I hiked the Knife Edge between Katadhin and Pamola up in Maine. Really puts fear in context.

2) I'm surprised to see you hiked such a dangerous trail, especially in the winter, in jeans. Numerous websites/books/resources will tell you that you should not hike in cotton, jeans, etc, during any season -- but it's especially true in the winter. These types of fabric are very bad for survival if you get wet. A frequently used phrase in hiking is: "cotton kills." I'd google this some since you seem unfamiliar with it. I point this out for your own benefit for future hikes.

3) And I know you probably realize this one from your experience with the Ice Trekkers you bought -- but I really recommend that you do more research about the proper equipment needed for hiking, especially winter hiking (and you can always go into an EMS or an REI, etc., to get advice from people with experience, too). It's a dangerous sport, but a lot of its danger can be counteracted by be sufficiently prepared. You should see the gear I use just for summer hiking...:)

4) I LOVE these pictures. Thank you for posting. I think I will need to put Zion on my list of places in the US to visit for hiking purposes. Angel's landing -- hear I come!

Date: 2011-01-12 11:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
er, Katahdin, I mean -- typo. and "hear" in the end -- should be "here," of course. I'm tired...

Date: 2011-01-12 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
On (2) I had brought waterproof snowboard pants, but I found them to be too warm so I stuck them in my backpack. I did have a non-cotton wicking underlayer under them. The snowboard pants were to baggy to wear on their own, so I used just the jeans. Really, I need some tighter waterproof regular pants.

On (3) I got the Ice Trekkers instead of the spikes because I was told that the spikes get worn down rapidly on a rock trail, and the trail was mixed rock/concrete/snow. I was concerned that I'd get annoyed taking them on and off every few feet. Really I think I need to bring both, and swap to the spikes when it gets really icy. :-)

I'm glad you have concern for my well-being though. :-)

Date: 2011-01-12 11:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
2) Understood, but there are a number of possible events that could prevent you from switching to just your water proof snowboard pants (and having the jeans under the snowboard pants doesn't work either -- you don't want cotton as a base layer). For example, you slipped and fell off the trail and your back pack was ripped off you during the fall, so you were separated from your back; or you break your ankle and can't get your pants off; or, at very least, you're stuck in a situation where you will need to remove your jeans and shoes in order to put on the snowboard pants, which could cost you a lot of important heat in a survival situation. etc... :) I highly recommend at least having some thermal underwear -- you can get some nice stuff from REI for around $50, and also using quick-dry pants (also available at REI for ~$50). Both are really important components to hiking attire, I've found.

3) Okay, that makes more sense. :) I think you're right that you just have to switch back and forth between gear -- it's annoying, but safety is worth it, I think.

And you're welcome. :D

Date: 2011-01-12 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Actually, on (2) I did have a thermal synthetic underlayer, but your points are good.

Date: 2011-01-13 04:54 am (UTC)


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