Acrophobia on Angel’s Landing: Zion National Park, Utah
After a crazy drive through a blizzard we managed to get out of Salt Lake City before all highway lanes were shut down. We escaped the foul weather and saw the sun again on our way to Zion National Park. We were able to get a room at the lodge inside the park. We took the riverside walk to the narrows as the sun set. It was dark when we arrived at the end of the trail. A barefoot hike through the narrows just wasn’t in the cards on this trip. We could see enough of the landscape to enjoy the scenery in the night before heading back to get some sleep for the next day’s hike to Angel’s Landing. It was a beautiful night and as the moon rose over the horizon it lit higher peaks and created a contrast of shadows from lower peaks that morphed and grew on a canvas of moonlight.
We started at Emerald Pools in the morning. The sun rose and cast shadows on the bluffs in shades of red and orange over green pines. There was still ice in shaded areas and we had to hang on tight to keep from sliding across slick areas of trail hidden from the sun.
Next, we started the ascent to Angel’s Landing. My travel companion has Acrophobia, a fear of heights, but he always tries to overcome it. The first time I realized his fear of heights was when I took him out to a 75 foot tall train bridge at night nearly twenty years ago. It was one of my favorite hangouts growing up. I love heights and have never had an issue. I walked out onto the train tracks and was talking to Daniel. I turned around and saw him hunched over, crawling hand over hand across the rail far behind me.
“What are you doing?” I said.
“Uh huh,” was the single syllable I received. He didn’t really hear anything I said after that and was purely focused on getting through it. He crawled out to the middle of the bridge under moonlight and stayed sitting. I have seen him lean from the wall of the Sear’s Tower, stretching as far as he could to catch the view without letting his toes from one foot leave contact from the wall. I have seen him rock climb up a vertical face, then down-climb the whole thing because he didn’t trust the rope. He is always willing to try and push that limit, despite his fear, and it’s admirable.
Angel’s Landing proved to be a bit too much for him. We made the climb along switchbacks, right up until it came time to hold onto the chains and walk the ridge. Daniel was gripped onto a piece of rock tightly. I asked if he was okay and received a mumbled, “uh huh,” while he held a death grip. I tried to give him some re-enforcement but realized he wasn’t going anywhere. “Uh huh,” was the response to most of my questions. I double-checked and made sure he was okay, then carried on to summit Angel’s Landing. We already had that conversation before the climb in anticipation of such an event.
An Australian couple snapped a picture for me at the summit. I hiked in a jet-boil and made a cup of coffee to sit back and enjoy the view. The chipmunks are not shy and were scattered about the place looking for handouts, or something to sneak away. It’s a beautiful view from the top overlooking the valley between bluffs with strokes of white, brown, red, and orange scattered with green pines.
It turned out Daniel was still clinging to that piece of rock for some time until a couple came along to help get him down to a safer spot. The husband was familiar with a fear of heights, and recognized the symptoms. Anyone else who asked how he was or if he needed help likely received, “uh huh,” as a reply. It took someone with a little more empathy and understanding to look through that and get him down. I met back up with Daniel and we made our way back down to safer ground. We were back on the road towards Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon.
Next Installment: Antelope Canyon to Grand Canyon
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