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Conducted safely, the pleasures of desert climbing, the freedoms from man’s trials and tribulations, the warm dry air and peacefulness of a desert camp, when the rest of the world’s mountains are snowed in, are the things that a guidebook can point toward, but are only found by climbing in these regions.
– Walt Wheelock

Zion’s 7,395-foot North Guardian Angel

My quest for Zion’s Guardian Angel Peaks began in 1978 when I arrived in Zion with only a rough idea of how to reach these fabled summits. A major late November storm arrived a few hours later and, wisely, I took my team elsewhere. My queue of things to do is often quite long, but fabled peaks have a way of bubbling back to the top. Jennifer and I checked out the modern trailhead for these peaks on our return from California in April 2001. We also secured two trip reports from the backcountry ranger. Armed with this information plus the ever-trusty DPS description, we felt ready to attempt these summits. What we did not know was that we were still under prepared for the task.
Determined to try, Jennifer and I drove into Zion in early June 2001 during a period of spectacular, stable weather. We planned to climb 7,395-foot North Guardian Angel first. The North Guardian Angel is easier to approach, but harder to climb than 7,140-foot South Guardian Angel. During our climb of North, we hoped to learn enough about this complicated, canyon-ridden area to attempt the South Guardian Angel the next day. With birds chirping in the fresh cool of dawn, we started for North Guardian Angel at 6:40AM.
We started for North Guardian Angel while Pine Valley Peak ushered the moon to the horizon Determined to try, we started for North Guardian Angel as Pine Valley Peak ushered the moon to the horizon
After an easy mile on the Wildcat Canyon Trail and another easy mile on the Northgate Peaks trail, we arrived at the viewpoint between the twin Northgate Peaks where the guidebook description assured us we would have a “full view of North Guardian Angel.” The book was quite correct, and we were not disappointed.
A full view of North Guardian Angel A full view of North Guardian Angel
Leaving the security of the trail, we descended the broad gully between the two Northgate Peaks and hiked south to the base of our peak. Our first task was to do a “friction walk” up to the level part of the ridge. This proved more difficult than we anticipated. Using the tipped strata to advantage, we devised a devious route to minimize difficulties. En route, we marveled at the peak above us.
The huge hole on the northeast side of North Guardian Angel A huge hole on the northeast side of North Guardian Angel as seen from the friction walk
On the ridge, we marveled at the views while we rested in a dwindling patch of shade. We decided to leave some of our water and gear here, and climb the peak with just what we needed for the ascent. Description in hand, we studied the route carefully.
The route up North Guardian Angel goes up its east slopes The route up North Guardian Angel goes up its east slopes
The first pitch on North Guardian Angel The first pitch on North Guardian Angel
After trying various starts, I moved right and climbed over several delightful Class 4 spots, and easily reached the first tree. The second pitch was easy Class 3 scrambling to the left, up, then left again to a tree right next to a steep section. Happy to be gaining height so easily, we eagerly tackled the third pitch. The guidebook directed us to chimney between the tree and the rock for five feet before committing to the rock. This was not really necessary, as the rock was easier than it looked. Above the tree however, there was a “lip” that provided another spicy Class 4 move to surmount.
Gerry caressing the lip Gerry caressing the lip
Above the lip, I scrambled easily up to the most famous tree on the route, a large tree that grows horizontally out of the rock. Happy that we were on route and above most of the difficulties, we paused for a drink in the tree’s shade. Engrossed in the climb, we did our best to ignore the rising heat.
Gerry approaching the horizontal tree Gerry approaching the horizontal tree
Jennifer above the horizontal tree Jennifer above the horizontal tree
After some easy scrambling, we reached the route’s final obstacle, a traverse around an exposed corner. The heat was in full flower here, and we used some of our gear to protect this saucy spot. Above this final Class 4 move, the ridge angle relented, and we made jokes about the angle of the angel as we walked to the top.
Gerry enjoying the easy angel angle near the summit Gerry enjoying the easy angel angle near the summit
Jennifer on top of North Guardian Angel Jennifer on top of North Guardian Angel

South Guardian Angel is on the right
The spectacular summit views kept us spinning around through 360 degrees.
West Temple as seen from North Guardian Angel West Temple as seen from North Guardian Angel
West Northgate Peak as seen from North Guardian Angel West Northgate Peak as seen from North Guardian Angel

Pine Valley Peak is behind to the left
From the summit of North Guardian Angel, we spied the incredible South Guardian Angel From the summit of North Guardian Angel, we spied the incredible South Guardian Angel, our next objective
Continue to South Guardian Angel
Copyright © 2001-2021 by Gerry Roach. All Rights Reserved.
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