Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reno Point (415'), District of Columbia

   No one I know has ever gone to the Washington, DC highpointing.  Only fanatic hikers and summit collectors would spend their time such.  Although Washington is full of small hills and knolls, nearly all of them are so built up with homes and businesses that few ever bother collecting them.  However, being an avid peakbagger and state high point summiter, it was only natural of me to waste a morning in the American Rome to summit the highest natural point in the district, Reno Reservoir, a rather unimposing 415'.  In fact the Washington Monument down on the National Mall is taller than the knoll, reaching 555'; the highest point in the city.  Nonetheless, if you are interested in climbing all 51 of the state and district high points, Reno Point has to be on your list. 

Category: Easy
Miles: 1
Elevation Gain: 100'
Location: Tenleytown District, DC, Fort Reno Park

The Hike: From Tenleytown Metro Station, head east of Albemarie St., then turn north on 40th Street, and follow it up to Fort Reno Park, replete with soccer, tennis and baseball facilities.  Walk right up onto the highest natural ground you can find.  Unfortunately, the highest section is on gated government property, so you will have to make due with the highest legal ground you can find- only about 5' short of the true high-point.  Despite being the top of the town, the view is terrible  with vistas only onto rows of houses and commercial buildings.  Return the way you came.  

 Hiked 11/15/2015.  Washington, DC

N.B. I have now climbed Mount Whitney, CA, Humphrey's Peak, AZ, Harney Peak, SD, and Point Reno, DC...only 47 left!

Beginning the Ascent out of the subway.....

Highest natural, legal ground

Real ''summit''

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zion National Park: Observation Point (6,550'), Hidden Canyon, and Weeping Rock

"...Zion, my holy mountain..." -Psalm 24:3

   Zion National Park, in southern Utah, is in my opinion the crown of the American Southwest.  While the jewel of that crown may be nearby Angels Landing or The Narrows, neither of those provides such amazing views of this crown as Observation Point.  Perched some 2300' above the canyon floor, Observation Point offers the hiker the greatest vantage point of Zion Canyon available in the entire park.  Along the way to the summit is Echo Canyon, a mesmerizing slot between two sheer mountain faces.  Also available on this trip are short excursions to silent Hidden Canyon and fascinating Weeping Rock, from which drips 1000 year old  water from the cliffs and plateaus above. 

Category: Strenuous
Miles: 9
Elevation Gain: 2600'
Location: Zion National Park, "Weeping Rock Shuttle Exit"
DirectionsHERE  (Zion Canyon is only accessible by the free shuttle May-November. The exit is 'Weeping Rock')

The Trail:  From the "Weeping Rock Shuttle Exit", head onto the Mesa Trail, as it ascends steeply up above the canyon floor.  Unfortunately, almost all of the trail is in some degree paved, making for extremely uncomfortable footing.  In about 1 mile, 500' are gained, and the spur trail to Hidden Canyon appears.  Leaving the Hidden Canyon to the descent, continue upwards until the trail makes a sudden turn right into Echo Canyon, offering some shade and riparian peace.  Soon, the trees vanish, and abrupt sandstone faces along Echo Creek take their place.  The canyon narrows into an amazing slot canyon, only a few feet wide in places.  After passing through the vale, the trail gains some more elevation up to 5,500', where there is a trail split to Zion East Rim Trail and Observation Point.  Keeping on route to your destination, the path switchbacks steeply up the east flanks of the plateau, until it levels out at about 6000', with a perilous drop off to the left side.  From there, enjoy the ever expanding views of the canyon, and walk up atop the plateau, following the signage to the summit 0.5 miles away.  

     From your perch, thousands of feet above the canyon floor, surrounded to the north by pine woodlands, peer down into the great chasm of Zion Canyon.  The view is phenomenal.   After taking in the pure grandeur of this blest landscape, return the way you came, and if you are feeling up to it, take the spur trail 0.5 miles and 400' to Hidden Canyon.  There are chains in place on some sections of that route, with vertical drops on one side, so if you have a fear of exposure, you'd better skip out on this one.  Whether you choose to visit Hidden Canyon or not, you must make the small side trip 0.25 miles to Weeping Rock back at the trailhead; it is truly wonderful.  Return back to the shuttle, and start preparing for you next adventure!

Hiked 10/20/2015.  Washington County, UT        


The trail climbs this wall

Nice arboreal relief on a mostly shade-less trail...

View north

Entering Echo Canyon

Slot Canyon!

Climbing up into East Zion Country

East Zion Country

The rough trail

Observation Point (distance)

Final elevation gain section....

Cliff-side forest

Plateau-top forest

Canyon of all canyons...

Summit benchmark

Echo Canyon

Steps up to Hidden Canyon

Hidden Canyon Cables

More cables...

Weeping Rock

I am sorry for the poor pics....all I had was my phone camera....

Zion National Park: Angels Landing (5,790')

"...For to his angels, he has given his command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their wings they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone..."  
-Psalm 91:11

     There are few day-hikeable peaks in the American West able to challenge Angels Landing for both sheer exhilarating thrills and enlightening views.  Dropping 1500' vertical feet into Zion Canyon, this mighty citadel, sculpted by wind and water, offers an adventure quite unlike any other.  From the remarkable Walter's Wiggles to the North Rib scramble, the ascent of this celestial palace is, like our lives, a struggle; but a worthy one at that.  As the wind blows across the forbidding ridge, the mighty river flows far below, and the spectacle into the gorge of Zion soars ever greater,  you perhaps you will indeed find personally why it is called Angels Landing--a place where heaven meets earth...       


Category: Strenuous (because of the Class 2/3 climb)
Miles: 5
Elevation Gain: 1500'
YDS Class: Class 2/3 (Fixed cables)
Location: Zion National Park
DirectionsHERE  ("The Grotto" Shuttle Stop) 

The Trail: From "the Grotto" stop, cross Zion Canyon Road, and cross the creaky bridge over the free-flowing Virgin River.  The trail meanders gently at first through the river bank and its quaint riparian vegetation.  Soon, the trail begins gaining elevation , and abruptly switchbacks up the cliff to the west of Angel's Landing.  Take the switchbacks up as they curve about 500' above the valley floor.  Right after the final steep section, the trail evens out into Refrigerator Canyon, so called because it can be 15 F cooler here than the canyon bottom.  After passing through the heart of the slender ravine, the route climbs another 500' feet steeply up Walter's Wiggles, an incredible section of winding switchbacks up a near vertical cliff.  

     At the top is Scout's Lookout, the end game for most causal travelers, but the beginning of the ascent for you.  The views from Scout's are stunning, but not nearly as enjoyable and rewarding as the summit view.  From here, the trail ends, and the climbing begins to the south up the first rib of the steep ridge.  I recommend climbing gloves for the entire next section, as the cables can wear on your hands considerably.  Grab the cables and go up, and then down, the precipitous sandstone walls.  At the low point of the ridge is the infamous "Leap of Faith" section, a block of sandstone only a few feet wide, and 1000' above the Virgin River.  If you have made it this far though, it isn't really all that bad.  From here the entire next section of the climb is visible; the narrow rib up the north ridge of Angels Landing.  The exposure on the next section is extreme, but the climbing is quite straight forward with the cables, meriting only a Class 2, and possibly Class 3 in some section.  Keep a sharp eye out for rare and noble California Condors, as I saw one only a few feet from the trail.  Only 70 of these magnificent creatures reside in all of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and eastern California; it surely was a great blessing to see one of these up close.  

     With few flat sections, concentration is key, as many other climbers are also coming down the ridge.  At the end of the long technical ascent, you reach the summit, along with its spectacular views.  South is the end of Zion Canyon, while a glance north will bear a view to the Narrows of the Virgin River.  After the wonder and awe of the breathtaking scene, return the way you came, taking extra precaution on the descent, as falling and slippage is far easier.  Remember, never attempt this hike if it is raining or if lightning threatens, nor if it is icy (unless, of course you have the skills and equipment.)  Your safety is your responsibility.
Hiked 10/21/2015.  Garfield County, UT.  NPS Entrance Fee Required $30 for 7/days.                          

Refrigerator Canyon from the Grotto

The first steep switchbacks

Down Zion Canyon

Entering Refrigerator Canyon

View South

Scout's Lookout

Beginning the cable ascent

Ever-expanding view

The North Rib

Sheer Drops right here...

Leap of Faith

Virgin River

Final summit climb


Towards the Narrows

1500' vertical drop

Down Climbing

A California Condor: what a treat!  

I apologize for the poor pictures, my camera broke, thus I had to use my phone camera....