I woke up at about 5.45am this morning with my body aching and feeling fatigued, the bouldering session at the gym yesterday with Dan and Phil and some of their local mates was one of the hardest training session I have done for a while.
The morning was a bit disorganised as I was so fatigued, so I decided to really rest up and go to the Zion National Park in Utah. This was a three hour drive, through three states. I got my pack organised and loaded up. My pack held three and a half litres of water, a rain jacket, lunch, and a micro down jacket. I had never been there and I had no idea what to expect from the weather.
I hopped in Audrey’s VW Eurovan Camper that she so graciously is allowing me to use whilst she is in Japan for a week and off I go on a road trip through Nevada, Arizona and then Utah up to Zion. It was a great way to see this vast and ever changing landscape that is the USA. Leaving las Vegas was and eye opening experience given that I did not know there was a prison just out of town, the thing that triggered this was a prison guard driving past me on the highway heading north to work.
I passed the prison about ten minutes later and I have never seen so much razor wire in all my life…..holy fuck!! If you wanna get out you’ll be bleeding to death doing it. The long and unwinding road that is Interstate 15 out of Sin City and heading north-west is as wild as the country side you are driving through. They drive like fucking lunatics, trucks passing you at 120kmh and cars tail-gating you at speeds that would scare the crap out of any conservative driver. I was not in my car and was to not about to jeopardise this lovely ladies van in any way shape or form.
The landscape was absolutely breathtaking for the entire trip. Driving through the canyon lands was one of the most amazing things i have ever done. It is just truly awe-inspiring. The variations in rock types, formations and the heights of these mountains were just mind blowing to me. The ever changing landscape was one of pure wonder and excitement and I wished my father was still here to be seeing it with me. Tears welled in my eyes as this thought ran through my head.
The Virgin River Gorge is the descent route down from 2000ft in elevation to the foot hills of Nevada before heading in to Arizona for a short stint on roads that are a little rougher. You can really see the changes in the landscape. I was only in Arizona for a short time however songs were flooding into my mind reminding me of my previous life as a musician……I could imagine Glenn Frey from the Eagles hitch-hiking down the road and hearing him sing……..”Well I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see. Its a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.” I also kept singing…keep on a rockin’ me baby………..gotta love the Steve Miller Band.
As I drive into Hurricane, an outlying town that surrounds the highway into Zion and I wonder how much longer before I arrive. I am getting excited about where I am and this is a bucket-lister in my eyes. As I travel through the country side I am impressed with the style of the architecture and the way the houses are not littered all over the place.
A few more miles and then it happens…….I am absolutely and totally dwarfed by the intimidating rock walls that Zion is known for. I pay my entrance fee and head into the car park. Not finding a spot I park on the side of the road, lock up the vehicle and walk back into the park. Opening the map I look at what needs to happen for me to get to Angels Landing and the logistics involved. The information counter is the best bet and the gentleman behind it was most helpful. He did say it was a four and a half hour hike. So I hopped on the bus and off I went.
Looking up totally mesmerised with the enormity of what I was seeing must have been a sight to see for other passengers…….my mouth agape and eyes wider than ever before, I sat in absolute awe. The Cardinals, Moonlight Buttress (I can’t believe Alex Honnold soloed the thing) and Angels Landing………my god!…..no more a majestic place had I been in my life. This was a dream come true for me.
Hopping off the bus at the starting point for my hike I looked up at what was ahead of me and watched as people were returning. I am considerably fitter than most people at my age and was very driven to give this hike a good shot. I filled my water bladder and had a banana before I took off.
Setting a pretty solid pace for the top I passed people along the way and continued skyward up this well kept and easy path. I was wondering when the hard bit was going to occur and then it came. 21 switch backs in a row at about 30 degree angle and it was about 32 degrees celsius. Holy shit!!………. but I kept powering along all the way up to the start of the west ridge trail. Walking the last twenty minutes along the ridge line to the top was an interesting experience. 1000 foot drop-offs , no guard rails, just chains to hang on to and people freaking out a long the way. I helped a young lady who was plainly very distressed and could not move fast at all. She held my hand all the way to the top of the first very steep and scary section and when she got there she cried with happiness as she didn’t think she could do it. A lovely thing to see. I had reached the summit in one hour and three minutes.
I sat and ate my lunch on the top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Nevada with a smile on my face ten miles wide. This was a life changing day and I was so present that I actually just stared, taking in the vast landscape and for about five minutes not thinking of a damn thing.