In Fall 2011 Drive, Steve Bradshaw recounted his first canyoneering adventure at Zion National Park. He and his canyoneering group returned a couple years later for more. Here is his account of the group’s ascent of Lady Mountain.
A return to Zion National Park in July 2012 brought anticipation, excitement, and imagination as to what it would hold in store. Our plan was to complete an off-trail hike called Lady Mountain as part of our 80-mile trek over nine days.
The Lady Mountain hike is not publicized by the park system because it was shut down in the 1960s as a result of frequently having to rescue under-skilled hikers. It’s two miles each way, which certainly does not sound intimidating, but the elevation gain over those two miles is just short of 2,700 feet and requires some class 5.6 climbing skills.
The climb involves searching for solid handholds or footholds much of the time. It also requires rope work to provide an all-important element of safety during the climb and the descent.
The off-trail hike to Lady Mountain challenges you with climbs that are almost vertical at times. For assistance, Moki steps have been cut into the sandstone. Moki steps were used by ancient peoples of the Southwest to help them ascend the vertical portions of sandstone walls, but these particular steps could have been cut by park employees when the trail originally opened. The steps were helpful, but a fall in exposed areas (having empty space beneath a climber) would result in injury, at a minimum.
I was a first-timer on the hike, and I carefully took one step at a time, zoning out the fear of dangerous exposure points along the way. I focused on completing each step with purpose, putting aside over-thinking and -analyzing.
I had failed at this hike in one previous attempt. It was not a fear of heights that had stopped me, but simply the possibility of making a misstep along the way.