If you have followed my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I like to mix up fashion with some really fun hiking adventures. What you may not know is that I am the least likely person to begin a serious hiking hobby at the age of 57 then most people.
When I started my hiking journey last year, I did it to prove to myself that I could overcome some fears and not be held back by letting these fears become obstacles that could not be overcome. Yes, I wanted to get in shape but more importantly I wanted to get in “mind over matter shape.”
This week I conquered a fear of extreme heights, poor depth perception and doing adventures solo by hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park. I am not a daredevil by nature and am not an expert hiker, but I am someone who was determined to look those fears in the eye and not let those fears limit me.
In full disclosure, my fear of heights is minor compared to many people who truly suffer from it. I realized I was developing it when I was in Havasupi Falls last year. Climbing down Mooney Falls on the ladder absolutely terrified me. I had never been in a situation where my feet were not firmly planted on the ground. The thought of having to hold onto something so as not to fall off a ledge made me break out in a cold sweat.
For years, I thought I was clumsy because I tripped easily. I finally realized that it was my depth perception that was causing me to fall. When I step down stairs or a steep slope, I have trouble seeing if it is 2 or 20 inches. My eyeglasses help but the real tool I depend on when descending down a slope or rocky path is my trekking poles. I use them to help me “feel” the distance I am stepping down.
As for doing a hiking adventure solo, I have always had a team of better hikers with me. When I hiked through Sedona and Havasupi, I was with good friends and we had a guide. When the going got tough, someone was always there to give me a pep talk or hold my hand if I got nervous.
It was important to me to know that I could depend on myself and trust my physical abilities. Angels Landing was my own Mt. Everest, I knew that if I trained hard enough and be able to do it completely on my own, my fears really would be a matter of mind over matter. Mission Accomplished!! I would love to say that it was an easy hike, (it wasn’t) I had a few moments where I almost turned around (I didn’t) and there were moments I was so nervous that I had to stop and do some deep breathing. I probably cursed more under my breath during those 5 hours then I have all year.
Getting to the top was so exhilarating that I felt a sense of victory unlike any hike I have done. Lessons learned, we are all capable of more then we know, never let our fears become our excuses to avoid doing what we love and you are never too old to set new goals.
Some fun tips about Angels Landing
- Angels Landing is 5.4 miles long and you gain over 1,500 feet in elevation
- The hike will take about 4 to 6 hours depending on your fitness level and the amount of people on the trail
- The first 2 miles are on the West Rim Trail, a steady uphill climb that leeds you into Refrigerator Canyon, a cool, shady canyon. This is a good place to slow down and catch your breath, the next section is a beast!
- The next section is 21 steep, swtichbacks that are called Walters Wiggles. Don’t let the name fool you, they are tough.
- After the final swtichback you will reach a large area called Scouts Lookout, this is a great place to stop, enjoy the view and get a good look at the famous 500 foot climb straight up to the top of the mountain.
- The chains are there for a reason, hold on tight, there are long drop offs and the trail is slippery and very narrow. I won’t lie, I held onto them as if my life depended on it, it did!
- The scariest part of the chains is all of the other people already on the trail. There were a lot of people descending as I was climbing up and you have to maneuver around each other. To be honest, I didn’t really look over the edge, I just kept my eyes on my feet and where to step. Going down the chains was much more difficult for me then going up. I held onto the chains for dear life.
- The view from the top is breathtaking (I mean literally) It took me awhile to get my breathing under control after the final climb. There are no guardrails or other safety features to separate you from a very, very steep fall. I didn’t go too near the edge, I was content to stay in the very middle and just look at how far I had climbed.
- Go as early as possible, this is the most popular hike in Zion and is very crowded. I started about 10 am and it was already too late. It took me 5 hours to complete the entire hike.
- In full disclosure I used my iPhone camera and only stopped for photo’s on areas’ that I considered safe. Taking a picture while holding onto the chains on the steepest parts were not something I would have been comfortable doing. Looking back, I wish I had been able to take more pictures but I am glad I got the ones I did!