One Step from Death - Hiking Angels Landing (Photos)

seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019 · 6 min read

Hey guys, welcome back!

Today I thought I'd share another part of one of my favorite trips of 2018, hiking Angels Landing in Zion National park.

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I made it back in time for the hotel breakfast, seeing that I left well before dawn to catch sunrise in the canyon. I ate what I could, and stuffed a muffin or two in my pants for later. I knew I'd need them.

It was still early, but it felt like mid day since I was up so early and already did a decent hike, and the thought of hiking Angels Landing, one of the most dangerous hikes in the country, was getting more and more daunting in my head. Between debating what time to start the hike, wondering if I could stay up for sunset and make it down safely, or just go early and not risk it. Oh, and if you're wondering why it's called Angels Landing, it's because it was believed it could only be reached by Angels. So, yeah, there's that too. Fun.

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I made up my mind, and decided to go somewhat early, to give hopefully enough time before sunset, after rereading the difficulty of the hike over and over. I get to the trailhead, cross a bridge and am greeted by a beautiful sign warning me how easy it is to fall off and die. Sweet. Not to mention a girl the week before did fall to her tragic death and they had just recovered her body apparently. Well, I'm only here for 2 days, so let's get to it. First is a winding trail to the cliffs, not so bad, then you get to the first set of switchbacks. Yikes.

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I'm trying to keep moving at a quick pace, still concerned about coming down after sunset. The switchbacks are tough, but the views are already quite incredible as you can see above. I feel as though I'm making pretty good time.

I finally make it to the top of the first switchback. Now It evens out for the most part into a small canyon and my legs get a well needed rest. Well, until the next set of switchbacks that is. As I begin climbing, I ask a guy if I'm about there yet, thinking I must be pretty close, and he tells me that I'm about half way. I assume he's messing with me, but I would find out, he wasn't.

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I ascend the last set of grueling switchbacks and am shortly rewarded by the amazing view you just saw above. Wow. What a fucking view. Also, what a fucking drop. Geez, what did I get myself into? Am I really prepared for this? I guess we'll find out.

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I now realized I just made it to the first plateau, I now needed to cross a ridge, and then ascend the full spine of Angels Landing. And I was just about to learn how treacherous this hike is.

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The first part of crossing the ridge is made up of these super smooth sandstone ledges, that at first don't look too daunting, but when you factor in that one slip is all it takes, and your boots aren't gripping too well, and you stupidly decided to bring about 35lbs of camera gear on your back, it's scary. And you know how I titled this "One Step from Death"? Just to show you that I wasn't exaggerating, check this out:

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Yeah. That's about 2 feet wide of surface, if that, and 1500ft straight down on one side, and 1000ft down on the other. I truly never felt closer to death before. I could see death all around me. I've climbed higher mountains, much higher, but never so narrow, so slippery, with such straight cliffs all the way down in your peripheral at all times. Quite terrifying. But I make it through, now onward to the spine.

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The final ascent is insight. The closer I get, the more vertical it becomes.

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I begin the climb up, and it's really a climb, quite often having to rock climb a bit, which is tough with a 35lb bag on your back throwing you off balance. Man, I really wish I didn't bring all that gear. Especially since I hardly used any of it, seeing as I was often quite scared to take my bag off and rummage through gear in most spots at this point. But I keep climbing and pushing forward, this is what I came for.

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After some more grueling climbing, I'm near the final stretch at this point, and I look back to see my accomplishment so far, as can you just saw in the photo above. The view is just stunning, as well as terrifying. I stopped to take it in for a bit, then began my final march towards the summit, or so I thought.

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I'm perhaps 30 feet from the summit now. In a rare occurrence before I arrived to Zion, it had snowed out, and I've reached the area with snow still. The chain link ropes to hold onto are no more, the stone was slippery enough without being snowy/icy and I'm so close. But my bag is heavy, throwing me off balance, boots aren't gripping well, and I was advised to have micro spikes to make it to the top. But I'm so close.

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So close, yet so far. My ego, my pride, my sense of conquest is urging me upwards. But my rational side is saying to enjoy what I've got so far, and call it a day. So I decide to take that selfie, and decide to live to hike again another day. It was tough turning around without summiting. In fact, I believe it was my first and only time doing so. It hurt. But looking back, I'm proud of myself for recognizing my limits, for turning back when the risk was just too high, despite my desire to push through. It just wasn't worth it. Plus, it gives me an excuse to go back and try it again :)

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I hope you enjoyed my adventure and my photos. Let me know what you thought, what photo was your favorite? Do you think I made the right choice or should have pushed onwards? Let me know below.

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Till next time,

Sean Gold



The views and colours here are absolutely stunning - the 7th from last pic (where you’re holding onto the chain) really hammered home the point to me here. Looks like a fantastic experience!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post! And yeah, I think that's one of the more powerful photos to really get the point across. Even looking back at it makes me weak in the legs.


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poovs
poovs @poovsJanuary 2019

The photos show the intensity of the climb. Looks jaw dropping.

Reaching the summit might have given you one extra experience, but if hiked again at the same time next year , it will throw up totally different experiences.
So not reaching the summit is inconsequential, soaking in the experience is more important. The photos gave us a glimpse of the experience and am spellbound.


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Well said! I think you put it better than I did! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for sharing your thoughts! Already looking forward to going back better prepared!


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mmeexxii
Mex @mmeexxiiJanuary 2019

Nice! you should try some black n white pics!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you! Funny you mention that, I've been wanting to for a while now, but it's just so hard to leave my colors behind. Maybe that will be my goal for 2019, to shoot more Black and White.


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This took my breath away ... and made me DIZZZY!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Haha! Glad the photos translated some of the experience to you!


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aramro
Mara Bujor @aramroJanuary 2019

All the photos are amazing and it's hard to choose a favourite, especially because they come hand in hand with the story behind. I think you made the right choice. It's the journey that matters, not the destination, right? 😊


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the story and the images! And it's true, the journey is what grows us ultimately, but it's also nice to arrive at your destination, safely that is :P I see you're from Romania, very cool, I haven't had the pleasure of visiting there yet.


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great shots! i got a little anxious for you just looking at them!


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Nice shot!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you!


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goodsoul
goodsoul @goodsoulJanuary 2019

Spectacular pictures! Congrats


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed them!


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love the colours of the rock! Hope you had a good time!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Thank you! It was a great experience! Especially since I was able to walk away from it :)


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also - looks like an adventure. Hiking and exploring the world comes with its risks the the rewards are so much greater!


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seangold
seangold @seangoldJanuary 2019

Absolutely! The risks are what make the rewards worth it!


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