Zion National Park 48.3M Traverse,  Utah
Vertical Gain:  10,400'  

May 4, 2017

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The Grotto to Lee's Pass

I had just climbed Angel's Landing with Mike the previous morning so appreciated how important it was to climb as much vertical as possible before the sun's heating rays reached the trail. So I put my head down and charged up past straining tourist climbers for two miles to where the West Rim Trail splits from the turn to the top of Angel's Landing. Leaving the crowds behind I would be in full sun for the rest of the day from mile 14, where these pictures continue, until dark.

The following miles continued my 3500-foot climb in under five miles to reach the 7500-foot elevation of the West Rim with thirty miles left in the day's adventure. The rocks were slabby and blindingly white, rising up in every direction, with stains of red and black and plenty of heavy snow still waiting to thaw in the shadows.

Once reaching the rim the trail would gradually wind down for the most part with less dramatic views of the Park's massive lithospheres. I put my camera away to focus on the task at hand. With fatigue increasing in the hot dry sun of the afternoon, I watched my water dwindle and made sure to eat to keep my strength.

The first good water on the west side was when the trail took a dip at mile 21 into Potato Hollow. There a trickling meadow stream fed a small grassy pond. Suspecting there may be range animals also drinking from this spring I treated the tasty water with my Steri Pen just to be sure it was safe.

Climbing out of the hollow back to the rim I encountered a broad barren landscape that had been previously cleared by wildfire to allow views through ghostly tree sentinels of distant snowy ridges to the north. Often the trail wandered away from the rim's edge so that it seemed Zion Park was far in the distance. The break from technical climbing trails was welcome as I strode easy across the level dusty rim trail for about five miles.

At the end of the rim the trail broke hard left to begin a gradual descent into a more shaded Wildcat Canyon. Water was abundant from a stream and several springs as I enjoyed an afternoon reprieve from the sun on top. The running was a bit more technical for the next five miles but at least it was pointed downhill.

At a trail junction 31 miles and 9 hours into the run I turned the wrong way and added most of two miles to my day's venture, which would take me to over 50 miles for the day. Quickly adjusting I continued another 4 miles to a trail connector that would take me to Hop Valley.

35 miles into the run, plus the two I added by going off-course, I reached the start of Hop Valley, a long dry stretch of open desert with deep sand that slowed progress to a walk. The only water was in a heavily pastured two-and-one-half-mile stretch of private property. Not sure which was water and which was cow pee I passed, preserving the dwindling supply in my bottles.

The sun was heading down by the time I reached the other side of the valley and refilled at Beatty Spring gushing into La Verkin Creek with seven miles to go. Running in fading light for over two miles along the creek I passed half a dozen campers settled in for the night around their warm campfires.

The final four-and-a-half miles gradually climbed about a thousand feet to reach Lee Pass. Weariness was getting the best of me, but I still managed to shuffle uphill for three miles until about eight o'clock when I turned on my flahlight after jumping a mule deer at close range. The final mile-and-a-half became steeper, so I resorted to walking mostly, crossing a small creek probably fifteen times after dark.

Temps were getting chilly, but I was comfortable as I found Mike in the car at the TH parking lot 15 hours and 38 minutes into the run. I was beat, ready to stop and get something to eat. It was a great adventure on a good day, one that I shall always hold high. I am not likely to do this one again, but the memories will last a lifetime.

After chowing down on some quick fast food, Mike and I rode back to the Dixie National Forest to finally find some sleep by 11 p.m. No falls, no injuries, and even my feet were not sore after the gentle pace of the day. Ready for the next one after a few days of rest.