We were quite exhausted as the sleep the night before was less than optimal, and to top it off, we were forced to rise around 6am to get in line to ensure securing one of the limited number of backcountry permits they issue each day for the overnight option of hiking the Narrows, so after a quick oatmeal breakfast and a cleansing and refreshing dip in the river, decided we'd take a midday nap before using our first day in Zion National park to climb Angels Landing.
Now if you don't know Angels Landing, I implore of you to look it up…read a bit about it…and hot dammit people, don't look down! I'd try to explain a bit about it here, but I'd likely get vertigo just typing the description.
It was about 4pm when we hopped on a park shuttle that dropped us off at the trailhead and we began making our way up the steep climb with the goal of reaching the summit for sunset. Now, I'm all for a fairly strenuous 2 hour, 1700-foot climb along some of the most spectacular ridge side switchbacks you'll ever find yourself conquering. The views of the canyon in its entirety are incredulously awe-inspiring to say the very least. The color palate alone - everything from deep browns to bright oranges to ruby reds, forest greens, neon greens, and turquoise blues - was enough to make an Andy Warhol piece envious.
What I'm not all for is flirting with death.
And that's where I hit a crossroads.
Call me what you will, but you don't really realize what you're in for until your wobbling knees are looking ahead at 2600 feet of 3 foot wide ridge line flanked by a 2000-foot drop on either side…and your cajones depending on nothing but chains and rebar drilled into the side of the ridge. If we didn't leave them in the car, those crap bags might have come in handy right about now. Sure there was some consolation in seeing the groups of people that did it and were on their way back, but that consolation proved only half effective once you saw the ridiculously concentrated look of horror mixed with anxiety-ridden focus on everyone's dilated pupils as their white-knuckled hands finally let go of the chain at the base upon their return.
Nope. Sorry. Screw that crap.
So while my buddy decided to brave it, I did what I felt was the smart thing for my no sleep, tired, made-the-mistake-of-looking-down-first self - waited. And that led me to a realization - this was another situation that reminded me why travel is so vital to personal growth - for putting yourself in situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable help you learn more about yourself than when you're isolated to your comfort zone. Those situations are necessary in teaching you things about yourself that you can't otherwise learn…and in this case, I learned that I'm much more afraid of heights than I ever thought before. I sat there and asked myself a question "Would you rather risk your own safety for the reward of a sunset from atop the heights of Zion National Park, or swallow your pride and enjoy the same sunset from a slightly different perspective on more solid ground?"
One day I will conquer that fear. Today was not that day.
We got back to camp around 10pm, just in time to get our packs ready for the overnight backpacking trip through the Narrows that we'd begin the next morning, cook dinner, enjoy a couple swigs from the dedicated scotch bota, and finally get ourselves some real, restful shuteye.
The Narrows…been trying to get this checked off the list for over a decade. I'm hyped!
To read the next part of the journey, “3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag - Entering the Narrows,” click here.
Below are a few images from the climb up to Angel's Landing, and if you missed Part 1 of this saga, CLICK HERE.