North Guardian Angel, South Guardian Angel


By: Cuno Ranschau


Our objectives were North and South Guardian Angels and we suspected it would take three days, so Greg Vernon, Wendell Delanc, and I left on a Thursday nite for Z.N.P. We arrived at 2:00 am and zzzonked out in a campground near the headquarters. Next morning we looked through the displays and viewed the slide presentation--excellent. We told our plan to the Ranger and were given our permit in spite of assurances that the rains would fall in the impending storm. We drove north and took the turn off toward the Kolob Reservoir. went some seven miles and parked at the obvious turn off. The sky was overcast, as it had been through the night, but our instant decision was to go-for-it.

We headed for the cliffs to the east and dropped down to the Left Branch of the North Fork of the Virgin River. I had been here five years earlier and knew the route. We whacked our way upstream to the campsite which we reached at 12:30. In the pm we went up to take a look at the 'tuff' spots. The first obstacle can be ascended with etriers. We also checked to see that the log was in place at the entrance to the narrows--which it was-- and we retreated to camp. It rained some at about 6:00 pm and after about 1/2 hour delay a thunderous waterfall eminated from high on the cliffs above directly across the stream from our camp, giving warning to what perils might develop from streams that can become swollen in very brief time??

In the am things looked 'normal' with heavy clouds and we set off up stream. Greg and Wendell kept their pants dry by removing same, but I overestimated the shallowness of the stream and came up wet. The squat ledge was still there and then it was up out of the canyon. After attaining the plateau above, I had only a vague recollection of the route from '73, but it was fun route finding and working our way up. About half way up the final ascent it began to drizzle and I kept hoping it wouldn't lightning--which it didn't. We touched in on top and left immediately via the same route.

When we returned to the river bed it was obvious the river had risen somewhat and fear began to invade my mind, wondering how severely the narrows had been effected. As we charged down stream an unwelcome sight presented itself-- a new, voluminous waterfall was adding large quantities of what-we-didn't-need more-of. The roar at the narrows was deafening and we had to yell into each others ears to be heard. We roped up and I went first. Fifteen feet apart, voice communications were impossible--it had to be done with sign language. In our haste it was important not to make a dumb, fatal mistake. Greg lowered me over the edge into a pool and I couldn't touch bottom. A few swimming strokes and I was on a side ledge, Wendell was next and he did a hand-over-had on a streached rope and Greg was able to do a similar technique. Then it was "stay-on-the-ledge boys, it's-too deep-in-the-middle". At the end the log had been displaced by the rising waters. I swam the few feet and held the log in place for the others. Below the rapel the current was shallow but very swift and we were swept off our feet. The last part Greg belayed us and Wendell and I hung onto each other and then we were there!!!! The pm was spent drying out.

In the early am hours a dead tree came crashing down and the morning light revealed the cause--wet snow all around. The way down the canyon was no cake walk with slipperyness everywhere. The scene was all difo now with snow and clouds and when a trail presented itself we took it gradually up out of the canyon. The sign at the top read "North Creek Trail". We knew our road lay to the north and after a long trek we reached it. We got a ride five miles south to our truck and then it was din-din in Las Vegas, and home. Anyone in DPS land for N.G.A. in the Springtime??

VABM Cameo (5064-ft.) in Saline Valley 31 December 1978 Wes Shelberg VABM Cameo (Dry Mountain Quadrangle, CA, 15-min.) is a remote elevation (5064-ft.) situated on the southeast flank of the VABM Warm massif (6196-ft.). VABM Cameo is aptly named since rock strata on its southeast face near its summit have eroded into a highly visible, gigantic whorl suggesting a cameo. Setting, beauty and isolation make climbing VABM Cameo worthwhile.

A one-day solo climb from Saline Valley revealed colorful rough alluvial fans; deep precipitous canyons in impressive strata and in black volcanic regions; steep slopes for climbing; and an isolated black lava plateau for transiting. Summit views included the rugged VABM Warm ridge nearby, Panamint Range, Tin Mountain, Dry Mountain massif, the twin Ubehebe Peaks resembling the double hump of a camel, Hunter Mountain, Nelson Range, the southern half of the Inyo Mountains, southern Saline Valley up to and including its sand dunes, and a high desert area northeast of Cameo and lying between the VABM Warm massif and the Panamint Range. Snowy Sierra Nevada peaks were visible across the lowest region of the Inyo Mountains.

The "road-head" for climbing VABM Cameo was at the side of a mining road which does not require four-wheel drive. This road is not printed on current editions of the appropriate topographic quadrangle map (Ubehebe Peak, CA, 15-mm.) but is sketched on the map accompanying this article. For orientation purposes, consider starting in Saline Valley at the junction of the Saline Valley Road and the awesome jeep road leading to the Race Track (Ubehebe Peak Quadrangle, coordinates 420527). This junction is off the map accompanying this article. Take the Saline Valley Road northwest for three miles to the aforementioned mining road. Turn right (northerly) and drive three miles to the road-head which is at the 2000-ft. contour. For vehicle location purposes when returning in pitch darkness, it is good to remember that the mining road ends at a mine roughly one mile above the road-head.

The climbing route taken to VABM Cameo is traced on the accompanying topographic. map which is a composite of the Dry Mountain and Ubehebe Peak Quadrangle maps (both CA, 15- min.). These have 80-ft. and 40-ft. contours respectively. The one-way distance from vehicle to summit is 8.5 miles as measured on the map, the elevation difference is 3064-ft., and the route is a strenuous Class 2. A register was left. On brief winter days be prepared to start at dawn and return after dark; I started at 0615 and returned at 2000 hrs. A radiant moon would be very helpful on returning at night since without it the last 3.5 miles across alluvial fans and washes are rough and difficult. It is easy to overshoot the mining road when armed with only a flashlight in pitch darkness. My trip was moonless and Saline Valley is really a dark hole in this circumstance.

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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