6 people have died falling from cliffs on this route.
I was standing at the beginning of the cable ascend on Angels Landing, a hiking trail with a 1.000 feet sheer drop off on both sides.
We had gotten off at the Grotto bus-stop where the West Rim Trail starts. The first part of the trail was a walk in the park. We followed the Virgin River up to Refrigerator Canyon and tackled 21 compact and very steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles like they were a piece of cake.
But when we got to Scout Lookout I saw that damn plaque of death: 6 people met their death beyond this point.
Fuck it, I didn’t come here for nothing.
So I continued and focused on where I was putting my feet. I got up to the first cable part and held on tight while I shuffled my feet slowly forward.
I had to encourage myself.
Come on you can do this! It’s not that bad. Look at those small children hopping from one rock to another.
Wait, are those kids coming my way?
I realized that I had to let them pass by on the very thin ledge I was balancing on. Since they were kids, I would need to let them hold on to the chains while passing around on the outer edge myself. My heart started racing. Sweaty palms. I slowly moved, keeping as close to the rocks as I could.
I apologized as I was now surely crossing the unwritten rules of personal space kept between strangers.
But I made it.
A little further I reached a point where a lot of people seemed to be enjoying the view.
I was hoping that we had already reached the summit.
Deep down though I knew this couldn’t be it.
My girlfriend asked one of the people seated: ‘Is this some sort of waiting point?’
The girl: “Hell no. This is Chicken Shit landing. Angels Landing is right up there.”
She was pointing upwards to a fin spine, with a sheer 1.000 feet drop off on both sides. If I wanted to reach that summit, I first had to pass onto a knife-edge ridge just in front of me where the path became 3 to 10 feet wide and no chains to hold on.
Me: “Holy fuck. That’s insane!”
She: “Yeah I think all of them up there are mental. That’s why we are staying here at chicken shit landing. Seems like we have another member ?”
I hesitated and looked down. I shouldn’t have.
A broad-shouldered Australian guy came walking back from the ledge: ” Totally changed my mind up there.”
Fear took over.
6 people died here.
Don’t think about it !
But I couldn’t get myself to step up onto the ridge and take a leap of faith.
My girlfriend, brave as she was, decided to move on alone with our GoPro camera mounted to her backpack.
And I ?
I got left behind at chicken shit landing sharing wanker stories.
I felt bad because I wanted to get up there. I knew I could.
The only problem would be that I would have to take the same trail down again too.
And it would probably take a rescue team to get me to do that.
My girlfriend told me that this hike was one of the most impressive and strenuous hikes she had ever done. And each time I watch this footage, I promise myself that some day I will return to make it to the top.
Do It Yourself
Head over to the Zion National Park visitors centre for trail maps and more info.