Saturday, November 22, 2008

(3) The Patriarchs

Zion is a geologic wonderland. Its ancient seabeds became
limestone. The mud and clay became mudstone and shale.
And the desert sand became sandstone. And forces deep within
the earth pushed the surface upward. Zion's elevation rose
from nearly sea level to as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.
Also this uplift gave the streams a greater cutting force during
their descent, hence erosion bigtime!

And what we have most strikingly noticeable at Zion are its
magnificent monoliths. These massively tall monoliths attract
climbers from all over the world--mainly highly skilled climbers,
in that these monoliths are not recommended for amateurs.
Not only are the climbs high, but they are what are called "big
wall climbs" that literally could range 800 to 2,000 feet high.

When I first gazed upon Zion's monoliths, they seemed almost
like skyscraper towers with a nearly smooth surface going
straight up. I was astonished when I first spotted what seemed
like small "specks" nestled against the walls of these monoliths.
Those specks were people! They were climbers who could spend
days and nights, attached to their ropes, perched, as they moved
slowly upwards under very dangerous conditions. These monoliths
are made of sandstone, and sandstone is loose material. And
the cracks (for holding) are mainly vertical, making it very
difficult getting a good grip.

Need I say that there were fatalities, whether from climbing or
even hiking in the canyons. And the park was kept busy, too,
when it came to rescue operations. Park rangers and medics
engaged in numerous rescues; but, there were also civilian
professionals--a "high angle search and rescue team"--always
on call.

The beauty of Zion was both aesthetically pleasing and frightfully

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