South Guardian Angel, North Guardian Angel
By: Dale Van Dalsem
California Mountaineering Club
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 10X10' 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)
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