North Guardian Angel, South Guardian Angel
By: Dave Jurasevich
On August 30th at 9AM our group converged on the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead petting lot for a day climb of the North Guardian Angel. Group members included Dan Sherman. Les Hill, Gail Hanah, Ken Olson, Rhet Schoeneman, Richard Carey, Kathleen Mazur and Arthur Lin (my brother-in-law). Under cloudy shies we climbed the peak via the standard north ridge/east face route. Upon reaching the summit we found a meticu1ously constructed 7-foot high rock cairn built by a group of Swiss climbers in June. The register was found to be in poor shape without a waterproof can for protection. The best we could provide were some Zip-Loc plastic bags. Hopefully anyone reading this write-up who's planning a trip to the N. Angel will carry a good register and can to the top. Congratulations were in order for Kathleen; it was her first DPS peak. What a way to start! For Gail Hanna and myself it was our second time on the summit. Les Hill and Ken Olson, in a 'dead even' race toward a 1992 list finish, eyed each other with evil intent, looking for an edge in the computation. After short stay on the summit because of threatening clouds, the group made an uneventful descent via the same route.
That evening we car camped at the Lava Point campground. To get there follow the Kolob Reservoir Road 4.4 miles north of the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead turnoff, then right or east (at the signed junction for Lava Point) for 1.8 miles to the campground. It's a dry (no water), free campground with 6 sites, each with fire pit and table and sharing a common pit toilet. The resident ranger at the nearby Lava Point Ranger Station. Mike Worthington vigorously enforces the 8 people/2 vehicle per site camping regulation. Incidentally, camping off the road in Zion N.P. is prohibited, so Lava Point and Kolob Reservoir (3.5 miles to the north) are the only 'legal' car camping sites in the area. The Lava Point Ranger Station can issue backcountry permits for overnight says at The Subway (base camp for the South Guardian Angel climb) but would rather that climbers obtain their permit from the Main Visitor Center in the Park. This is so the perk rangers can give all backcountry hikers their 'standard' speech on hazards such as flash floods. With a bit of talking and assuring the ranger at Lava Point that we knew the area and its objective hazards, he reluctantly issued me a permit for 10 people. Groups wanting to play it safe might plan on getting their permit at the Main Visitor Center.
Rain showers in the middle of the night at Lava Point sent some of us scurrying for tent flies or the shelter of a tarp. By morning heavy, dark clouds hung from horizon to horizon, somewhat dampening spirits. After a quick breakfast we packed up and drove south on the Kolob Reservoir Road to the usual starting point for the South Guardian Angel. Donning packs at 8AM, we hiked down into the Great West Canyon and on to the Subway, en route stopping to appreciate numerous three-toed dinosaur tracks on a whitish, sloping rock just won of the creek and about two-thirds of the way to The Subway. Arriving at The Subway we found good campsites for our group, which now included Barbara Reber. In addition to 3 backpackers already there, a mob of about 20 day hikers passed through while we were setting up camp. With the closing of Zion Canyon and The Narrows by the Park Service because of a flash flood hazard, The Subway became a very popular destination that weekend.
After a short lunch, Les Hill, Dan Sherman, Arthur Lin and I hiked up the canyon to set ropes for the next day climb. One obstacle, the waterfall, was negotiated by boosting Arthur directly over the chockstone at the lip of the falls, where he was then able to attach a sling and 5-step etrier to a bolt hanger on the rock. We returned to camp to find that Paul Freiman and Jules ? of San Diego had backpacked in to join us for the South Angel climb.
Gray skies and drizzles persisted into the evening, but by morning the weather seemed to break somewhat. Moving up the canyon with relative ease, the group quickly passed all obstacles and climbed to the canyon rim, where we made our way cross-country to the base of the South Angel's north ridge. An easy friction walk up the ridge brought us to the summit area, where a hand line was rigged for protection. The register was gone without a sign, so we left an account of our ascent on a piece of paper stuffed in a Zip-Lok bag. Once again, a private DPS group or CMA trip should carry a new can and register to the top. Completing this climb, Dan Sherman reached 94 DPS peaks, closing in fast on a list finish while Paul Freiman logged his third ascent of the South Angel. Counting our good luck at bagging both Angels between spells of rainy weather, we returned to The Subway in high spirits. The lure of cold beer and hot tamales in Virgin, UT got the best of some of us, packing up camp and hiking out that afternoon. En route to the cars, we met a backcountry ranger who asked us for our permit. He was heading down to The Subway to check on other campers. Be sure to have a permit if you plan on spending a night in the canyon.
A special thanks to Dan Sherman and Les Hill for assisting with the rope work and leading key pitches on both Angels to facilitate the climbing of these two great peaks. Their hard work as well as that of the other climbers was documented by our expedition cinematographer Arthur Lin, who filmed the climb on his Sony camcorder and somehow managed to keep it dry throughout the entire trip.
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