Default to beauty. Okay the hashtag is really Default to action, but in this case I'll stay with beauty. It's been ultra windy in the area. Thirty plus miles an hour winds all up and down the I-15 corridor. I'd been stuck in the house for a couple days electing to defer my hiking until another time, but by today I was determined to make an exit. Looking at the wind maps, I noticed a greatly reduced level of wind near the Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park. This surprised me somewhat as the typical weather pattern dominated the high country and often followed the mountain ranges in the area. I decided to pack my pack and head to the Northgate Peaks. Thinking that if there is wind it would be somewhat mitigated by the tall Ponderosa Pines that dot the high plateau.
To me the most stunning aspect of the Northgate Peaks hike is the high view point where the North Guardian Angel is framed between the two Northgate Peaks.
The sky remained overcast, but I had made the 2.5 mile stroll along the plateau in good time. Passing a small backpacking group of 3 who were using the trail as a small diversion hike between the West Rim trail and the Hop Valley Trail. They would be hiking for 3 days and ending near Cedar City at the Lee's Pass trailhead. After enjoying the view of North Guardian Angel, I dropped off to the east and worked my way, following the trail cairns, to the summit trail of Northgate Peaks East. I have climbed the peak a number of times, opting to bring guests of whom I knew little about their backcountry skills. The trail is steep, sandy, but short and relatively easy to reach such a rewarding summit. The Views in all directions are spectacular.
I enjoyed a snack while looking off the western face. This view point gives a birdeye's view of the trail which breaks from the Northgate Peaks trail at the beginning of the plateau and leads to the Subway. The deep slot canyon formed by the north fork of the Virgin River and cuts a deep path between the two Guardian Angel peaks. One can usually spot hikers on the trail, and there were plenty of cars at the trailhead, but perhaps the threat of rain made everyone get an early start.
I drop off Northgate Peaks East and follow the use trail through the underbrush toward the North Guardian Angel. I've climbed this peak before, but carried harness and rope for the first class 4 move. I didn't bring a rope with me, but thought I might take a closer look and maybe climb the peak a second time if conditions permitted.
The North Guardian Angel peak looses it's iconic shape as I cross the bushy plateau toward the base. The classic class 4 route to the summit, leads up a small crack line to the high saddle portion of the mountain. Then climbing the western face ridge line to the summit. From a distance, even this northern facing slope is intimidating, but once the base is reached, it becomes a very manageable class 3 scramble.
All class 3 scrambles require to be sure footed on steep slickrock. The trick is to use the ledge systems created by wind and water. One needs to be able to "see" the next few steps of the route "before" moving. This helps to avoid reaching a dead end on the route. North Guardian Angel has wonderful lines and this section of the scramble is very enjoyable with beautiful views back toward the Northgate Peaks.
As soon as I reach the high saddle, my thoughts of a summit attempt without aid is literally blown away. The wind impacting the southern side of the peak is to strong for a summit attempt. I move to a prominent rocky vantage point and settle in for a nice lunch. The views deep into the Subway are stunning along with views of South Guardian Angel and the remaining Zion National Park peaks.
The South Guardian Angel peak holds a special place in my heart as I'm sure it does for anyone who has stood on its summit. It is no simple feat to achieve and having done so solo I have always counted it as a big accomplishment. I took several selfies while standing on this rocky ledge.
I finish lunch and begin my descent back to the valley floor. The sun is out and I finally need to remove my fleece jacket to cool down. The North Guardian Angel and tall Ponderosa Pine trees continue to protect the northern side of the plateau from the wind and I say hi to dozens of hikers walking along the trail on my return. Perfect choice for a wonderful day of stunning beauty.