South Guardian Angel


By: John Vitz


And speaking of peaks which are more than qualified to be added to the list, South Guardian Angel must not be overlooked. It probably ranks second only to Big Picacho in the interest of the route and the beauty of the area. In Zion National Park, west of the main tourist infested canyon is a vast wilderness of steep-walled canyons, conical peaks, and great mesas surrounded by vertical cliffs. It is an area largely unused and unexplored. There is no way to describe the beauty of this area to anyone who might be unfamiliar with the sandstone canyon and cliff country of southern Utah.

Arkel Erb, who made first ascents of both South and North Guardian Angel, was the leader of this scheduled trip into this seldom visited area. We backpacked from the Kolob Resevoir road across pinyon covered flats to a break in the cliffs which allowed us to slide down to the north fork of Right Creek. As we boulder-hopped up the canyon through a light rain the walls constantly closed in upon us. At the point where the narrows begin there is a relatively flat sheltered area where camp can be established.

It was still raining as we walked up through the narrows - in spots only six feet wide and 300 feet deep - to a point where a fixed rope must be placed. This involves a 15 foot climb up a wet log to place the rope for those below. From the top of the rope a ledge is followed fifty yards upstream to where a leap across the lip of a waterfall must be made. Continuing upstream, walking in the water or on small ledges, we encountered an area of deep tanks which had been full of sand on Arkel's last visit. We moved a huge log along the canyon bottom about 50 yards to bridge the largest pool.

It quit raining that night and cleared to a beautiful day on Sunday. Starting early we soon passed all the obstacles encountered the day before and came to another fall which emptied into a large tank. Another log was jockeyed into position across the tank to the lip of the falls. A short distance upstream another set of tanks was encountered. After several unsuccessful attempts to pass the tanks high on the walls one member of the group went skinny-dipping through the tanks. He was able to find a reasonable route not visible before. The rest of the group soon brought the idiot his clothes shortly before frostbite got to his entire body. Further upstream a log was found wedged between two rocks, effectively stopping the downward flow of sand and explaining why the tanks were full of water and not sand. The final set of tanks was passed via a ledge on the right wall and shortly past them a chute leads southward to the rim of the canyon. We crossed the flats to the base of the white sandstone dome and walked up friction slabs to the summit making the second recorded ascent. After a cool lunch break we descended by the same route (as if there were another) and backpacked back to the cars arriving just as darkness set in.

Detailed information for visiting one or more peaks mentioned in this article can be found in the
Desert Peak Section Road and Peak Guides

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