Saturday, May 24, 2014

Utah Part 4: Angel's Landing

Angel's Landing is another hike that was on my life list. It was worth it. Of all of the awesome hikes we did on the trip, this was hands down my favorite. It is only five miles round trip, although the way we hiked it (from Emerald Pools), it was closer to eight, which still isn't epic in length. What it lacks in length, it makes up in sheer awesome. It is what Old Rag wants to be when it grows up. The trail on Old Rag is designed so there is almost never more than 10 or 15 feet of exposure. Angel's Landing multiplies that by two orders of magnitude.

The day we hiked it, we were originally supposed to do a guided canyoneering trip. The weather in the morning was pretty rainy, so we rescheduled, got some coffee and contemplated our options. We decided to check out Emerald Pools in the morning, figuring that rainy weather was a good time to check out a waterfall.
Cairns on the way up to Upper Emerald Pool. The weather kept a lot of people inside, so we actually had Upper Emerald Pool to ourselves.
A viscous mugger attack squirrel at Upper Emerald Pool. I set my pack down for a minute and, as soon as I turned my back, it made a break for it. I'm guessing it was hoping for a granola bar. No luck.
By the time we reached Upper Emerald Pool, the weather cleared somewhat and we realized we were only a mile from the Angel's Landing trailhead at the Grottoes via the West Rim Trail. Rather than retracing our steps and riding the bus for a mile, we just walked.
 We were rewarded with more flowers. Penstemon palmeri (Palmer's Penstemon).
We stopped at the Grottoes for a quick lunch and then began the hike to Angel's Landing. As soon as we crossed the river, we began to climb. This is looking down on the lower switchbacks.
 Castilleja chromosa (Common Paintbrush). These appeared to be growing out of the rock itself. They apparently only need a dusting of soil.
After climbing up a series of 21 switchbacks known as "Walter's Wiggles" (after the man who designed them), we reached the saddle where the trail to Angel's Landing splits off from the West Rim Trail. That's where things got interesting.
The trail goes up and up and up and it was about as steep as anything I've climbed before. There are a series of cables to help hikers. There were occasionally shallow steps as well, which can be seen here, too. We were fortunate again. The weather kept some of the crowds away. While there were definitely a lot of people, it was nothing like what I've read about. We were by ourselves occasionally. We had to wait out a rain squall on the way up, which made the cables wet and cold. Waiting out the rain was actually the only time I got a little anxious, but it was because I was watching other people slip and slide around. I was worried I was going to see one of them slide off into the abyss.
 The last push for the summit. It is probably steeper than it looks.
 Bootshot from the summit looking up the canyon towards the Narrows. The light kept changing because of the unstable weather, so I must have taken about 50 pictures looking this direction from the summit.
 Another beggar on the summit.
 Looking down Zion Canyon from the summit, towards the visitor center.
 Looking down on the road and one of the shuttle stops from the summit.
 On the way down. The cables give a sense of how steep the trail is.
 Another rain squall blew through while we were on the way down.
After it cleared at the sun came out, I came around a corner to find a rainbow in the valley below us! How cool is that. It is actually a double, which can just barely be seen. The second rainbow is above the first. As I said in the first paragraph, this was definitely my favorite hike of the trip (out of a bunch of very good hikes). The view from the top was incredible and the rainbow...well, amazing.

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