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Routes in South Guardian Angel

Northeast Ridge T 3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a R
Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures ***** RAIN AND WET ROCK ***** The sandstone in Zion is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Holds rip off and climbs have been and will continue to be permanently damaged due to climbers not respecting this phenomenon. After a heavy storm the rock will remain wet, sometimes for several days. PLEASE DO NOT CLIMB IN ZION during or after rain. A good rule of thumb is that if the ground near your climb is at all damp (and not powdery dry sand), then do not climb. There are many alternatives (limestone, granite, basalt, and plastic) nearby. Seasonal Raptor Closures Details

Getting There and Back

Multiple approach and descent options exist depending on whether you plan to include the Subway and/or Russell Gulch or neither. Zion canyoneering permits are required for the Subway and Russell Gulch options, as well as a car (or bike) shuttle if you plan to exit at the Left Fork trailhead.  All options start from the Wildcat Canyon trailhead (~15.8 miles) up Kolob Terrace Road from Highway 9.  Kolob Terrace Road is accessed from Virgin, UT, before the main Zion canyon if you're coming from La Verkin.  

Gear
A topo map and/or GPS is highly recommended given the complexity of the terrain.  Some may want a short rope or hand line for the 4th class gully.

Option 1. Northgate Peaks Viewpoint Approach/Descent
no canyoneering permit required - 
Wildcat to East Northgate Peaks
From Wildcat Canyon trailhead go 1.2 miles east on the Wildcat Canyon trail, continuing toward the West Rim after the connector trail to Hop Valley joins from the south. After 0.2 miles turn right (south) on the Northgate Peaks Trail.  Ignore the Subway turn off and continue for 1.1 miles to the viewpoint.  From the viewpoint look for a faint access trail heading south toward North Guardian Angel. The trail follows the drainage southward along the base of East Northgate Peak.  

Descent to the Subway
Be on the lookout for a smallish pink and white sandstone dome that's just east of North Guardian Angel (see beta photo below).  

the small dome that you're aiming for to reach the descent into the Subway

Pass through a notch immediately below and west of the bump and continue down the ridge for ~0.25 miles.  Downclimb into a small sandy gully on your left then descend steps to reach another smaller ridge to the east.  The route continues down a series of shelves off of the ridge to reach a loose, vegetated dirt gully, which descends into the Subway.  Note that there are a multitude of gullies leading to the Subway, many of which cliff out so watch for cairns and use trails.  Work your way down the gully into the Subway. If you chose the correct gully directly across the stream you'll see a small arch (a.k.a. jughandle arch) at the base of a cliff.

jughandle arch

Subway to the base of South Guardian
Cross the stream and ascend the gully next to the jughandle arch.  Expect a few 4th class moves on big hand holds.  Continue up the dirt trail to the top of the ridge then down into the drainage below.  Follow the sandy drainage SW until you hit red slabs that form the sprawling NE flank of South Guardian.

Option 2. Russell Gulch to Subway Approach
- requires Russell Gulch and Subway canyoneering permits -
See canyoneering beta for Russell Gulch.  After joining the Subway head downstream for ~0.5 miles until you see the jughandle arch. See photo below for additional canyon features at this location.  Follow Option 1 instructions for Subway to the base of South Guardian. Return via the Northgate Peak Viewpoint approach (no shuttle) or continue down the Subway (requires shuttle to get back to Wildcat trailhead from Left Fork).

Subway crossing near the jughandle arch


Option 3. Subway Descent
- requires Subway canyoneering permit -
Approach as per the Northgate Peaks Viewpoint Approach and return to the jughandle arch. Instead of crossing the steam, head downstream via the Subway top-down route.  A shuttle is required to return to the Wildcat trailhead from Left Fork (~8 miles from the Kolob Terrace junction with Highway 9). 

Description

South Guardian Angel sits across the Left Fork of North Creek (a.k.a. the Subway) from the Northgate Peaks. Unlike its more easily accessible sister peak, North Guardian Angel, South Guardian makes you work for it. After groveling through loose dirt gullies and thickets of scrub oak (with plenty of time to question your decision to proceed) you'll be rewarded by its relatively choss-free summit and 360 degree views that few people will ever experience.  The Northgate Peaks viewpoint out and back option is 12-14 miles (reports vary) with ~3000' of gain.

Red Tape
Combining any of the nearby canyoneering routes requires a permit from Zion National Park.  For more details see the park page.  Please use existing trails, drainages, and durable surfaces where possible to avoid damaging cryptobiotic soil.

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