North Guardian Angel, South Guardian Angel

12-Oct-91 (CMC Trip)

By: Dale Van Dalsem


I had already told over 20 people they could go, when a call to Zion N.P. revealed that they were strictly enforcing the 12-person limit for permits & they had to be picked up in person, and they were only open 8-5, mountain time. So - we met at SGA roadhead, 5:30 A.M., 8 mi. from Virgin on Kolob Reservoir Road, left half the vehicles, shoehorned all packs & people into the other half, & drove to NGA roadhead, another 7 mi up the road, & backpacked from that point. John & Wendy had each gotten a permit the day before, 9 for NGA & 11 for SGA.

We donned harnesses & helmets at the foot of NGA & climbed it with no problems, setting up 4 ropes at required places on the way, delegating the belaying to eager assistants & leaving ropes for the down-climb. All 20 made the summit & we placed a new register container in good but overcast weather. Details of these climbs are in the new, world-class, third edition of the DPS Road & Peak guide, which you should all have.

We then packed a few hundred yards east to the ridge that runs south from the letter "N" on the 7.5 topo & followed that ridge south into Great West Canyon. We had done this route 11 years earlier & remembered that one must bear left, or east to catch the right brush-choked gully leading down to the bench perhaps 150' above the canyon floor. We took the wrong gully, one to the west, but it still led us down to the bench & we didn't have to break out the ropes. From the bench (perhaps 200' E-W by 40-50' N-S), we found the route down to the pedestal, a detached block some 50' down from the bench, with a 10 X 10' top, then the turn right & down a 15' cliff & down a vegetation-choked gully to the stream, almost exactly opposite the canyon exit point for SGA. Everyone was down by 1:30 P.M. & there was talk of doing SGA that afternoon! A strong, fast party who knew the route cold could get both Guardian Angels from the NGA roadhead & back in one long day!

The right gully and route can be seen easily from the top of the canyon climb-out for SGA: The gully up from the bench ascends from almost the right (East) end of the bench, and is easy class 2, whereas the next gully, the one we came down, is class 2/3. Some may want a rope up to the pedestal & then to the bench.

Leader fixed a rope up the slope for tomorrow's climb of SGA, before getting into the bag during a LONG happy hour. Knotted loops at strategic places are helpful. We spread out in 3 camping areas: a sandbar & rock bench near the exit points, a flat sandbar area 50 yards upstream, with a fresh-water spring on the N. side of the stream, and another area upstream, wading up under a log & turning a corner.

Sunday we climbed SGA without incident on a glorious, warm day, fixing a second & third rope at appropriate places, as all 20 made the peak again, & we placed another new container. After lunch & packing up, we left the campsites just after noon. Vic, Sue, Bob, & Bob hiked up & out the way we came in & were back to the cars by 3:30 P.M. on day 2! The other 16 of us chose to experience the scenic pack-out down the subway & out to the usual SGA roadhead. At the waterfall, we hitched a couple of slings & hung double etriers (pre-tied from half-inch tubular nylon). For the packs, we strung a rope from the bolt down 50 or 60 feet to the other side of the pool & ran packs down this rope on carabiners (A pulley would have worked a bit better).

Most agreed that the canyon was the highlight of the trip, one of the most successful ever to Zion & the Guardian Angels. We were all out by 6:40 P.M. (All times Pacific)


October 13, 1991 By Dale Van Dalsem

The Guardian Angel trip was attended by Jack Knox, Bob Sumner, Stephen Padgett, Bob Wyka, Kent Santelman, George Toby, Judy Ware, Asher Waxman, Vic Henney, Sue Wyman, John McCully, Wendy Ruess, Jay Holshuh, Susan Leverton, Barbara Cohen, Barbara Hoffman, Jim Murphy, Owen Malloy, Tom Scott, and Dale Van Dalsem.

Stephen Padgett carpooled to Zion with me, planning to meet his wife Charyl, and her sister Dawn Hamilton, out visiting from Chicago. Charyl and Dawn were sightseeing in and around Zion while Stephen climbed with us. They met after the climb to drive home together.

Stephen had a great new Job as editor of the monthly put out by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, but we daydreamed about how one might find a job that would enable one to spend more time in southern Utah and the four-corners area. He LOVED southern Utah.

Stephen had read everything Ed Abbey and Tony Hillerman wrote. We talked about these authors, as well as his apprehensions about becoming a father, his love for music, writing, and conservation Stephen was an ardent conservationist who loved the Monkey Wrench Gang. I didn't bring up the Desert Protection Act, knowing we'd be on opposite sides, but knowing that we'd probably respect each other's position - we both loved the desert and knew it well.

A mile outside the park, just 2.5 miles from the SGA roadhead, Charyl, who was driving, apparently turned to Stephen in the passenger seat and took her eyes off the narrow paved, unstriped, but straight Kolob road. The right front tire of their nearly new Tercel caught in the soft shoulder. Charyl, startled, cramped the wheel left, and the car skidded across the road and off the 60' cliff some 10' from the edge of the road.

Jay and Susan were driving behind them and saw the whole thing. Mine was the next vehicle, with Tom Scott right behind me. Tom drove on to get help. Jay Holshuh and Barbie Hoffman found a way down the class 4 cliff in the dark. Susan and I followed soon after. Jack and Kent and others came down quickly.

The car had flipped and rolled upside down, facing downhill, with interior and headlights still on. Charyl was alive, vocal, logical, and helped direct her rescue from her position hanging upside down in her seat belt.

Stephen, unbelted, was very dead beside her. Dawn was hanging from her seat belt in the back seat, moaning, unconscious, and obviously hurt very badly internally. She died as we removed her. The Hurricane Fire Department(HFD) truck, an ambulance, and several fireman, most of whom obviously had paramedic training, arrived in an unbelievably short time. Virgin and the farmhouse where Tom stopped are 5.5 miles away, and Hurricane is another 6.5 miles. Seemed like 15 or 20 minutes after Tom sped away that the HFD was there, in force, with trained people and equipment, charging up through the cactus.

Jay, Barbie, and several of the good people from the HFD loaded a still talking Charyl on the ambulance, while I helped with the other stretcher carrying Dawn, who was still receiving CPR although all vital signs were gone. The ambulance sped away and we numbly climbed back into our vehicles, thinking we'd at least helped save Charyl, and probably her unborn child.

Phone calls Sunday morning revealed that Charyl died on the way to the hospital.

Some of us have been very troubled by this horrible nightmare. I've broken down many times; vivid freeze frame flashbacks of a nightmare 8 years ago on the Kahiltna glacier occur more frequently now. The senseless and one-in-a-million and WHAT IF aspects haunt me. A second's inattention at the wheel and 3+ vital, beautiful people are gone.

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