Friday, March 29, 2013

Park Rangers, Cliff Hangers

Today I had the opportunity to work as the front desk liaison to the park's visitor center which was an interesting change from my usual gig in the lodge.  I shared an information desk with four rangers who answered tons of questions for visitors.  Unfortunately I had almost no inquiries at my side of the desk, so I spent most of my day jealously watching as kids took oaths over their Junior Ranger Handbooks before receiving their gold badges and stickers, and the rest of my time wondering how I'd look in a ranger hat.  A part of me has always wanted to be a ranger, so I was pretty geeked to work side by side with these folks and to eat my lunch in their break room.
While I was there I noticed one person's office had a kid's drawing posted on the door which was (for the most part) pretty standard: One green tree, one house with a four-pane window, two smiling stick figures, but what made me smile was the giant red cliff scribbled into the background with a third stick figure climbing up it.

Every few nights my friends and I watch for tiny lights that flash around high up on the canyon walls.  The lights are from the headlamps of extreme rock climbers who climb these walls for days at a time and actually set up camp overnight on the face of the cliffs.  One morning I scoped the wall with some binoculars and spotted a red hanging tent, called a portaledge, dangling two thirds of the way up on a 1,200 foot wall like a wildly misplaced sack of potatoes.  Zion National Park is a world-renowned destination for big wall climbing with some walls rising over 2,000 feet.
Here's a picture from Red Desert Adventure's site to give you an idea of what Zion's climbing walls look like:
Crazy.  I can't even tell how the climber in the left photo can find a grip; that wall looks pretty smooth to me.
If you want to see some more extreme climbing photography (including a look at what those portaledges are like) check out this guy's photos here.

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