Day 9: Angel’s Landing

If you Google the most dangerous hikes, you’ll find Angel’s Landing on Zion at the top of all the lists.

We’ve intentionally avoided this hike for years. We watched the videos, we read the testimonials. We knew it wasn’t for us.

Then the park service created a permit system, drastically reducing the hikers allowed on the chains at a time. Certainly, the overcrowding made this more risky, but that’s not to say it was an easy, safe hike.

Our permit allowed us to start at The Grotto at 11:00. When this was our assigned timeslot, we were so disappointed. Starting a hike at 11, in southern Utah, in the middle of June, is rarely a smart idea. Somehow, as most of the country is under heat advisories, we are in Zion when the high was 80* and the cloud cover was full. It certainly wasn’t cool, but it was not hot. We couldn’t have been luckier.

We started with serious accent. The switchbacks are were constant, one after another. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to phase us too much. After the first set of switchbacks we entered a long narrow portion with steep canyon walls on either side. Eventually, we were faced with Walter’s Wiggles, a long series of tight switchbacks. We were incredibly disappointed to not see any twerking Walters at the top.

There was a rest area before the real fun began. We had a few handfuls of trail mix, showed our permit to the rangers stationed, and finally began Angel’s Landing.

At about 500 feet of gain in half a mile, it’s a steep hike. But we can do that. It was the sheer drop offs on either side, 1000 feet to the floor of the canyon, that made it terrifying. I can’t think of a time I’ve been so scared. 100% of my focus was on the next step. Over and over. But then I realized I was a mom, and responsible for two other humans. I’d pause, check in on them, freak out that my babies were a misstep away from death, gently shout the reminder to be careful, refocus, and continue. It was draining, so emotionally draining.

Thick chains were secured to the rock walls and we slowly put hand over hand, making our way up the rock. If people were coming down at the same section, one of us had to wait, and the other group had an audience. At about 100 feet up, Ellie started crying. She was scared. She had every right to be, what we were doing was terrifying. We talked about small goals, making it up the next little section. We practiced breathing exercises. I told her encouraging words, not only for her, but so I could hear them myself.

There were a handful of groups that passed us, then we would pass them at the next section break. I can’t decribe how helpful the commodore was. There was little doubt that everyone doing the hike was doing it together. At each paused point, we were met with words of encouragement. None of us more than Ellie. It was repeated to us many times that it isn’t a race to the top. The only goal is to be careful and safe.

As we were approaching the top, I was in the back of the family, about 20 feet behind. I watched Ellie take the final steps at the top. Suddenly, I heard an explosion of cheers and claps. A group, one of the ones who passed us, were applauding for Ellie, singing I Am Woman (a TikTok famous song, I’ve heard.) She had just accomplished something that was remarkable and was recognized for her efforts. I started crying. As a mom, to hear your daughter celebrated in such a way warmed my heart. As I approached, I realized that my tears weren’t just for Ellie, but for all of us. I was so proud of us. Of me.

We had accomplished the hard part, but quickly realized we still had a long way to go. Going down was sure to be as challenging, if not more. For one thing, we were more tired. Also, the sandstone was certainly more slick going down. We took it slow, one step at a time, gripping onto the chains until our knuckles were white, but we did it. At the landing before the Walter’s Wiggles, we ate a late lunch of pb&j. (I could hardly consume that, still recovering from the adrenaline, let alone any Cheetos.) The rest of the hike down was a steep decline, it made me wonder how we did the incline with so little whining and complaining.

For the final mile, I tried to reflect on what we had done. I’m so proud of Zoe. She did this with incredible grace, in her element the whole time. She was sturdy on her feet, but also in her mind. She kept checking in with me, reminding me that I needed to check in with her. She made it look so easy, posing for her Instagram everytime I gingerly pulled out the camera. I LOVE how much she loves these crazy adventures.

So, that’s the story of our Angel’s Landing experience. This was one of the epic hikes I hope to never forget. We did it. We hiked Angel’s Landing.

Pics maybe tomorrow when we have wifi.

4 thoughts on “Day 9: Angel’s Landing

  1. Soooo cool! Congrats on such an awesome family accomplishment! I’ve also sent in my resume for the position of Twerking Walter, fingers crossed I get it.

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