Tag Archives: ExploreYourBackyard

Lady Mountain – Zion’s abandoned Via Ferrata Route – 6.2.19


Lady Mountain

The cool Zion Canyon, sunlight just peaking out!

Zion has had a tough spring. The rain has been constant; the snow has capped the orange cream sandstone peaks more times and later in the season than any local has seen for quite a while. The Virgin is rushing too high for the Narrows to  open, rock falls closed Observation Point, and road closures have kept visitors from Kolob Canyon. But, there are more options to this place than the highlighted dotted lines on the visitor center maps. This account is about the ascent of one of those routes.

Just after this sign you will find the climbers trail which leads you to the start of the route.

Here’s a little back story: during the height of putting up Via Ferrata routes across the United States, Zion was no different. Completed in 1924, the park encouraged people to ascend the 2600 ft from the canyon floor to the top of Lady Mountain. After having to save several weary hikers, Zion finally abandoned the route in the 60s, taking down the cables, and cutting most of the bolts. But the route still exists as a fun, adventurous mountaineering route. It’s definitely worth the time to get spectacular views of the canyon from a different perspective, and takes you well away from the hoards of tourists on more conventional trails.

Start of the route!


Scramble on!

People may give you funny looks as you climb on the Zion Shuttle bus with a harness and helmet strapped to your daypack, but just a 30m gym rope and a few cams (Black Diamond 0.75, 1, 2, 3) is all you need for this adventure. The shuttle will navigate up canyon  while the towering walls keep watch and the doors open and you get off at the Zion Lodge stopHead for Emerald Pools, just after crossing the Virgin River Bridge, turn left, away from the crowds and up the closed Kayaenta trail. They are working on the closure; it’s coming along and they’re doing good work. Go up the switchbacks and pass the pour offs until taking a brief moment at a sign documenting a rock fall across the canyon. Take a moment and take  in the views, check out the river rolling through constantly forming the canyon around you. Don’t worry, the whole climb ahead of you will still be there after your break.

Moki steps!


Slight exposure =)

Now walk about 100 ft and find the climbers trail (it’s actually well beaten and thecairns makring its departure from the main trail may or may not be still there) on your left, hike up, trekking on, switchback after switchback, until finally you find a vertical rock face. There will be a yellow bubble with a spray painted arrow pointing up marking the start of your ascent. Take the class 3/4 up before taking a switchback to an exposed face with moki steps cut in. Scramble on (or rope up if you’re nervous), but it soon turns back to class 2/3 as it continues going up and up. Just follow the trail marked with spray paint and a few faint footprints until finally you find a short low class 5 section heading into a chimney. Rope up and place a couple of cams to protect your ascent from a 60’ drop below. It’s pretty mellow, I led it all with my tennis shoes. You can protect your second from an old but sturdy Via Ferrata bolt at the top, making for an easy belay.

Getting good views!


Yeah, that’s right, leading in my Nike’s


Coming up the 5th class chute!

Hike on up a bit until faced with a couple of slopey Moki steps. It’s a weird start but the Moki steps get better as you go up. From here it’s a pretty easy-to-follow hike up to incredible views of the canyon. Some may want to rope up here, your choice. You’ll soon be skirting a small ledge westward following a footpath until finally needing to ascend north again. Up and on you go on a sandy slim ledge, it’s the only way to go that isn’t class 5. Soon you’ll come to a bulging sandstone face with a bolt at the bottom. This is your second class 5 rope-up point. Sure you can solo it, but who wants to make a small mistake in tennis shoes only half way to your goal?! After belaying your second over this short 20’ climb let the hiking continue. Switchbacking, scrambling, and finally you get spat into the final chute. You’ll know it when you get there!

Traverse on a nice thin edge!


Climbing up the 2nd 5th class obstacle, Graham, all smiles!


Up and up we go!!


Stellar views of the park!


Old cut bolts!

Start climbing into the chute, after about 20’ look to your left and find a small hidden climbers’ trail that ascends the left side of the canyon near some tree roots. Do not stay in the bottom of obvious chute get on the wall on climbers left. Without this trail you’ll get off route and have to do some weird sloped traversing from a tree belay to get back on (I speak from  experience, we found the easier trail on our way down). Once past this obstacle, youll find a few via Ferratta bolts bent over on your left side. Just keep on up the canyon past a growing tree and a fallen dead tree until finally exiting climbers’ right on a sandy short scramble.

The final chute is just around the corner!


Final chute before the topout


Up up and away!

From here use your route finding skills up and through the short scrub and sandy scrambles until finally popping out on the ridgeline. The views are absolutely incredible. You realize the left cliffs of Zion Canyon are only a sliver of land that divides the canyon to the north. Keep following the trail to the north east until finally the true summit comes into sight across a ravine. Just follow the trail headed northward until finally scrambling up some easy class 3 short  moves to the summit plateau. A short walk will soon blast you with incredible 360° views and a little taste of accomplishment after your fun 3 hour ascent (we took our time). Enjoy the summit and the copper plate pointing out the buttes in the distance. Take it all in along with your lunch before heading back down the trail you ascended back to the shuttle.

Izzie, proud after topping out!


Gotta love some fun features!


Which way do we go again?!


Topout baby! Such a cool plaque highlighting the different points in the park!


Views form the top! (click to enlarge)

We rappelled in 4 places:

1) Down the final chute at a bent over Via Ferrata Bolt

2) Down the 2nd class 5 sandy bulge

3) Down the 2nd set (if counting from the bottom up) of Moki Steps

4) Down the 5th class chimney.



  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Partially Sunny
  • Water: 3 liters
  • Food: PB&J, 1 protein bar, 2 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, gummy worms, apple
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: 2,800 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5 Easy Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 2


  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Camelbak 20L Pack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot C4 Cams – .75, 1, 2
  • 4 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 60 ft 10.1mm Rope 
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 120′ Sling for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag


  • BadHippieCo T Shirt
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Patagonia shorts
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Nike Running Shoes
This was a picture from our first attempt in March, it was a little too early and the final chute was packed with snow!


Beautiful golden goodness!


Flower power!


Incredible views!


Gotta love cacti!


Cedar Breaks: Under-appreciated Utah Gem


Cedar Breaks: Under-appreciated Utah Gem

Coming to you from the: Explore Your Backyard Series 

This past weekend Izzie and I drove up to Cedar Breaks National Historic Monument, which we refer to as the mini Bryce Canyon. It is a stellar place to visit! It had sick views and hoodoos to go all around. There are a few rim trails that are pretty easy. Unfortunately there are no legal trails that go through the heart of the National Monument. But don’t fret; there is a stellar circumference trail we discovered that can take you through some stunning diverse landscapes.

Trail: Rattlesnake Creek Trail to Potato Hollow Trail Loop.

  • Length: Approx 22.2 miles round trip (with road walking)
    • Other options: Shuttle Bike/Car at Blowhard Mountain or at bottom of Ashdown Gorge
  • Elevation Delta: Max: 10,463 ft; Min: 7204 ft; Delta: 3,262 ft
  • Total Elevation Gain: 5,031 accumulated gain
  • GPX: Link

We woke early, to a snow covered plain at the Rattlesnake Trailhead and proceeded to dive right in. Immediately you enter the woods and can see faint views of Cedar Breaks through the trees. Take the quick off-trail side trip and snap some great pics of the park from the rim. The trail then dives down through the forest, through pines, aspen and open plains, into Rattlesnake Creek where you skirt a deep gorge and are finally spat into Ashdown Creek, the river that forms it. Take the sidetrek down the gorge, trust me, you won’t regret it!

  • Snow on the ground . . . so glad I brought my trailrunners!!

  • Beautiful Ashdown Gorge!

Once you’re done, tighten up those hiking boot laces and dig hard for the haul out from the bottom up Potato Hollow back up to the rim! Great views once again! Potato is definitely the less traveled of the two but still a beautiful trek. Haul back up through the shrubs, plains, aspen, and pines and pop out at two large communication spheres. From here you can walk the road back, or set up a car shuttle, drop a bike if you’re rockin solo, whatever your pleasure.

Hiking up Potato Hallow (Click to enlarge)

Had your fill of Cedar Breaks on Saturday but aren’t ready to go home?

Cedar Breaks from the Overlook (Click to enlarge)

The surrounding area is pretty sweet too. There are a ton of lava fields, lava tubes (caves) and lakes to explore! Apparently this area has a big snowmobiling community in the winter, but it’s still pretty great to explore on foot. We took the opportunity to check out the following caves and local hikes:

Lava Tubes:

Mammoth Cave: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r4/learning/nature-science/?cid=fsbdev3_016108#hellsBackbone

This lava tube cave is really cool; bring some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, a helmet, a headlamp and a strong sense of adventure! There are a bunch of different tunnels to choose from (some are closed off in the winter due to hibernating bats). I like taking a chamber as far as you can go to its terminus before turning around and trying the next path. It isn’t a huge cave (2,100 feet of passage, some of which is closed), but we had fun exploring and finding all the hidden entrances.

Mammoth entrance (Click to enlarge)

  • Whats that?!

Bowers Cave: https://goo.gl/maps/DyNNjP7tt4D2

This guy is definitely less traveled, but is a really cool lava tube cave none less. It drops down with a wooden tree ladder to begin with and has 2 large rooms that you can stand in. Poke around, it’s a little wet, but really cool, plus we found a bat just chilling!

  • Huh, wounder where this goes!

  • Woot!

Ice Cave: https://goo.gl/maps/rYNgFophwPp

This was the smallest of our finds and seemed like it was regularly frequented, still cool to see though.

Navajo Lake:

Cascade Falls: 2.4 miles round trip ~ headwaters of the Virgin River

Pretty chill hiking in the pines shows off the beautiful forest to the south and a few more Bryce like formation areas. Bright orange and white hoodoos poke out of the side of the mountain as if it were cut away like a multilayered cake. When we went there was no water flowing from the mouth of the entrance. However, this just gave us another opportunity to go caving! The limestone walls of the cavern that guides the headwaters of the Virgin River was certainly cool to see! It was a little wet, but well worth the effort!

  • Flow meter for the Virgin's North Fork Headwaters