Sunday, May 2, 2010

Zion National Park Trip, 04/23/10-04/29/10

Zion National Park


Allison and I had an excellent trip to Zion National Park where we met Homie, Lori and their two daughters Mia and Anya. We shared a camp spot the first two nights near the river in the Watchman Campground and then the remaining nights again near the river in site 74 of the South Campground (which is located to the North of the Watchman Campground).

Friday, April 23rd

Today was mostly spent driving. We dropped Sierra off with the Roachs early and were on the road from Boulder around 6:30am. I made a last minute car change the previous night, as we were going to drive Allison’s Corolla for better fuel efficiency, but instead decided to take the Element, as it is AWD and has brand spankin new tires. This turned out to be a great call, as I-70 up to and past the tunnel, along with Vail Pass was a total mess. Many cars on the uphills were spinning their tires in place, while vehicles on the downhill were sliding off the road in front of our eyes. Once beyond Vail though, we just dealt with occasional wet roads and a short lived snow squall near Richfield, Utah (though we had a major headwind much of the time).

When we arrived at Zion, we found out that both campgrounds were full and I was kicking myself for not making a reservation at the Watchman for the first night. We lucked out however when I spoke with the campground attendant, as there happened to be a last minute cancellation and our timing was perfect.

Saturday, April 24th

We spent a good part of the morning moving from our shared campsite we scored the previous night, to Homie’s reserved spot a few sites down in anticipation of meeting them later that evening.

Eventually, we jumped on the free shuttle bus to the Temple of Sinawava stop, where we walked the easy, but scenic riverside walk 1 mile upstream. We had originally hoped to work our way a bit up the Narrows, but it was closed due to the particularly high amount of runoff this year. We then walked back down the road to Weeping Springs, where we were surprised to bump into Buzz (Burrell) as we were jumping on the shuttle. We chatted with him until we got off the bus at the Grotto, where he headed up Angels Landing and we hiked up to Upper Emerald Pool.

Great White Throne

Sunday, April 25th

Allison and I headed over to the Kolob Canyons and hike up the Taylor Creek Trail to Double Arch Alcove, where we were surprised to find no double arch of any sort, just an alcove, but it was still an amazing hike. We continued for another mile beyond exploring up canyon, finding a really cool waterfall and did some interesting bushwhacking.

After dinner, Homie and I decided to sneak away for a quick run up Angels Landing, mostly as a recon trip for a fast run later in the week. We went what was mostly a relaxed pace and had the entire trail to ourselves, except for passing a few tourists on the lower part of the trail heading down. Up in 29:50, down in 21ish.

Double Arch Alcove

Monday, April 26th

Allison and I had a great hike up Observation Point, the weather was perfect, the trail relatively un-crowded and the views were amazing. We took our time up and down, taking a zillion photos and a ~90 minute lunch break at the point overlooking the valley. On the way down, I took a quick run into Hidden Canyon and then caught up to Allison a little later.

Echo Canyon

Looking down on Angels Landing
Upper switchbacks up Observation Pt.

Tuesday, April 27th

Angels Landing TT
~5 miles RT
~1,500 vertical
25:25 up
18:04 down
43:29 RT

Homie and I snuck out of camp early to catch the first bus at 6:45am where we chatted with Bill (Wright) and Loobster who were on their way to do some huge and crazy climb.

We worked in a ~2/3 mile warm-up beforehand by getting off the bus at the Zion Lodge and hit every bathroom along the way, lightening our load as if it were race day or something (maybe it was the Mexican dinner we had the night before?).

We started our stopwatches at the Angels Landing side of the bridge (as instructed by Buzz) and I hit it hard immediately. The first ~1/2 mile or so is pretty much flat and I think I was going a bit too fast here. I bogged a bit as the trail started to steepen and was not feeling 100%, questioning whether or not it was a too fast start, or maybe I was not fully recovered from the Grand Canyon just over a week prior (it was probably a bit of both). The trail quickly steepened (now all paved cement sidewalk) and I was keeping a good pace which was quite the calf workout.

I crossed the bridge at the mouth of Refrigerator Canyon at 9:43 and upped the tempo along the now rolling path. I came to Walter’s Wiggles at what I think was 14:43 and took 2 minutes or less ascending all of the ridiculously tight and steep switchbacks, arriving at the junction at Scout Lookout at 17:01. From here, the trail becomes a bit more interesting as the ridge narrows and exposure increases.

I moved along fast and efficient, but all the while quite cautious and aware of the proximate exposure. There are chains along the way and cut out steps in the rock which were occasionally helpful to have there, though I really never relied on them. The summit seemed to be slower to arrive than the previous trip and I hit the true summit at 25:25, which I was not too happy with, as I felt as though I faded a bit over the last stretch and was not as accurate with the route and scrambling as I had envisioned.

Gathering my wits and breath back along the ~30 seconds of summit plateau, I knew that I had to be even more careful on the descent, as a slip could have dire consequences in spots. I again went fast, yet cautious, occasionally using the chains for balance, as the super-computer was firing at full capacity. Once back at Scout Lookout, I opened up the throttle a bit, shifting gears quickly through all the tight switchbacks (you still don’t want to screw up any of these) and really sprinted the final flat section, thinking each corner was the last. The bridge finally came into view and I stopped my watch at 43:29. Buzz had told me that the FKT for the RT was his 45:??, but I am not entirely sure that is the case, as I still think my 43:29 is a bit soft and certainly others have gone faster. I’m sure on a better day, with more practice on the route, I could shave off another 2 or so minutes.

Homie put in an excellent performance as well, finishing in 47:56 which I was quite impressed with, as he seems to be the fittest I have ever seen him.

We headed back to camp and rallied Allison and Mia (who is 5) for another lap on Angels Landing which was to be a first for both of them. We did not get started until about 10:45am and it was warming a bit and certainly much more crowded than our previous 2 trips when we had the trail mostly to ourselves. Mia marched up the trail at an impressive pace for a 5 year old, never seeming to tire.

Looking up Walter's Wiggles
Looking back down

At Scout Lookout, Mia and John put on their climbing harnesses and tied in to a short rope. Mia soon announced that she did not want the harness, so off it came. I led the way, followed by Mia, John and Allison. I took a bunch of pictures, as John spotted her closely. It was quite crowded in spots and Mia passed most people ahead, men and women of all ages and fitness levels, it was inspiring to watch. We spent a long time on the summit as many people expressed how impressed they were at her efforts.


Not too close!
Start of Observation Pt. trail
Looking back at route from Angels Landing summit

Walter's Wiggles from afar

John roped Mia up for the descent as it was a bit trickier to spot her, while I walked ahead, taking more pictures and making it a point to never use my hands. We parted ways at Scout Lookout, where they descended and Allison and I walked up the trail toward the W. Rim.

Wednesday, April 28th

Observation Point Run
~8 miles RT
~2,200 vertical
38:46 up
~35 down

On our final day, John and I again headed out on the first bus for a run up Observation Point. Like Angels Landing, the trail is paved with cement and has many switchbacks, but not as tight and a bit more runnable. I started off at a moderate effort up the initial switchbacks, as my stiff calves and quads slowly warmed up. I gradually eased into the effort and was soon feeling much better than expected, though certainly not 100%. Passed the Hidden Canyon jct. in 6:??, then entered Echo Canyon at 12, Observation/East Rim jct. in 20. The following long switchbacks became more and more challenging, as the gradient steepened, the wind was very strong in my face much of the time and I was feeling the effort in my legs, especially on top of the previous day’s efforts. I topped out below the mesa in 33, where I started the long rolling segment out to the actual Observation Point that wends it’s way just below the crest. My goal was to break 40 minutes, just an arbitrary guestimate I made while hiking it 2 days prior and really pushed through the final segment, making it to my destination in 38:46. I waited a bit for Homie, taking in the views and we then jogged down in an easy 35 (including a few stops).


  1. Wow. Great shots. Awesome runs. That place is a blast. Crazy seeing Buzz and bummer about the Narrows. Sounds like it is already pretty busy there too.

  2. Man...I thought I had been everywhere. Guess I have to add this place to the TODO list. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Zion looks like a pretty amazing place. Not as green as Eastern forests or the Cascades but breathe taking nonetheless. Your pictures are great.

    I haven't made any plans on a trip to Boulder this summer, I am locked down to some internships here. I will let you know if I get a chance to head out there though.

  4. Thanks for the intro to Zion.
    I don't think I will be trying to break the record on Angel's Landing, but I'll definitely try to get up early to do it.