South Guardian Angel, North Guardian Angel
By: Henry Heusinkveld
A Bus Trip
At the outset, let it be said that both South Guardian Angel and North Guardian Angel are beautiful, interesting and challenging peaks to climb. S.G.A. is easier and has superior views. N.G.A. offers better climbing challenges, is highly varied in composition and land forms, and, likewise, has excellent views. Being such a fine peak, many regretted that it was not on the DPS list, and recommended that it be added. Since N.G.A. has been DPS led on two successive years, it seems that the exploratory trip requirement should have been met. * *
This was a joint Canyon Explorers Club - Desert Peaks Section, led by Henry Heusinkveld and Phil Bruce, respectively. Zoya Beach led a sight-seer contingent. She also doubled as commissary Chef, par excellente. The bus departed L.A. Friday evening and at 5:00 an rolled into the dark woods in an unknown corner of Zion Nat'l Park. Zoya, with several helpers prepared and served a sumptuous breakfast to 35 groggy sleep-walkers. After this those persons blossomed into happy, efficient, optimistic backpackers. Henry and Phil led this group through the woods, then plummeted 500 feet down to the Left Fork River, and hiked upstream 5 miles midst breath-taking scenery. We found a delightful camp spot just before entering the very constricted canyon. We dropped our packs, and most changed to tennis shoes, since there would be wading, until we climbed out of the deep canyon.
Three or four canyon obstructions call for the use of ropes and/or other direct aids. One first encounters a waterfall, which can be met head-on if one doesn't mind getting wet to the waist. But this can be circumvented by climbing a steep-angled 30-ft slope to a shelf. This maneuver has been made tame, now that three eye-bolt anchors have been installed. Using carabiners and sling., the leader can scoot up this steep slope, and then attach climbing rope to the highest anchor, allowing the party to easily climb the fixed rope.
One then walks and wades several city blocks into a great defile between soaring vertical walls up to the second waterfall. Here the vertical rise of possibly ten feet makes it necessary to use a log for inclined plane. On both of my trips such a log was already in place, bit different logs and placed differently. Since the log is slender and slippery, it may be a struggle for the first one up. That person can then tie a 15-ft long rope or sling into the rock lattice, making it easier for the rest of the climbers.
After proceeding several hundred yards upstream, one comes to very deep water in the cleft. This being too deep to wade, one looks for a way around, which materializes in the form of a 45' smooth rock slope. The leader scoots up this and loops a rope around a tree for fixed line for the others to ascend. A fourth obstruction is a cat-walk ensconsed in the cliff face. One's head room diminishes as one proceeds, until one is reduced to a low stoop, squat or crawl. This maneuver can be done without rope, nor is it practical to fix a rope. Up to this point the route for SGA and NGA has been one and the same. Now, immediately after the cat-walk, the SGA party will find a very steep chute on the right. The leader will climb 60 ft (or so) to loop a rope around a tree for the party to use as fixed line. After this point the climb eases, and the party can gain the plateau without trouble. At this point N.G.A. hoves into view as a beautiful peak, but SGA is obscured by intervening mountain rises. A few ducks gets the party moving off in the correct direction, south. One rambles over hill and dale until SGA comes into view. The climb steepens on a red-stone headwall, but if this seems too steep, one can avoid it by circling to the right.
Moving from the sub-structure formation to the super-structure formation one is confronted by a soaring whit cone-shaped mountain, which looks formidable, but is not difficult at all owing to the deep horizontal and vertical cracks. A little billy-goat hopping along the ridge, and then a steep little pitch up the very summit.
A few may ask for a belay, so the leader should be prepared to give one. For the NGA route, one proceeds about 100 yards beyond the SGA escape chute, where a tall alive tree is seen leaning at 45° diagonally across the canyon. At this point scramble through the underbrush up the steep dirt slopes. The route is nefarious, possibly marked in places by previous useage. The leader should fix in mind the route to avoid descent problems. After climbing through bush, one bellies up several ledges getting into the red-brown sandstone ridges and valley.
The cone-section NGA substructure looms up above, and one may mistake it for the peak itself. It is grey in color and riven with cracks. Hike around to the far side of the substructure to find a very large bowl where climbing is the easiest.
After topping out on the substructure, one faces the steep-faced end view of the cone (or dome) super-structure. Directly ahead is climbable, but awkward. Much better to circle 100 ft to the right to find a small pine tree where a vertical crack makes for easier climbing. A series of short climbs follows, after each one traverses to the left. Belays may be called for in a couple of place, one of which is stepping off a limb of a pine tree onto a rather steep face having exposure. Another is climbing up a chimney with little head room, since it angles off to the right. An alternate to this place is traversing a ledge and then a few feet of steep face climbing. Really not much of this 3rd-4th class climbing, and not difficult for typical DPS-ers.
On Saturday Phil Bruce did a fine job of route finding, rope work and leading to get all of his party of 15 to the top of NGA. Meanwhile, Henry took his party of 15 to climb SGA. Eleven made the peak, and the other four were fatigued, considering an all night bus ride, a 5-mile back-pack, rope climbing around the inner canyon obstructions and then several thousand feet of gain. Both parties returned to camp at dusk. A pleasant camp-fire social topped off the evening. On Sunday Phil took his party of 15 (minus one or two) to climb SGA, while Henry had only four takers for NGA. Both climbs went well and both parties returned to camp by 1:00 pm.
Break camp, shoulder packs and hike five miles down canyon to catch the bus. The delightfully warm sunshine enticed most to a luxury dunking in the river mid-way along route. The water deep enough to allow swimming. The last of our strength seemed to ebb away on the final 500 ft climb to gain the undulating woods-land, so it was most gratifying to return to the bus, and be offered nice cold drinks, and to see a feast in preparation by Zoya, with able helpers Ione Bruce, Betty McCosker and captured males. The dinner was extra-ordinary--honey-dew melons, tossed salad, baked onions, choice steak, choice of pies and drinks. Zoya Beach, our sincere thanks and esteem to you for managing and preparing this sumptuous dinner in a primitive setting. The evening was given to good cheer around the campfire.
Monday, the go-home day, was anti-climactic as we were bombed by a five-hour bus break-down in Las Vegas But what better place could you pick for a bus break-down.
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