Tales of Zion Ice Tales of Zion Ice

Fall is a time of transition. A time of fluidity into something different. In the fall, I often find myself in a state of reflection. Where have I come from? Where am I going? Am I moving towards a place I want to be? 

As a winter climber, I’ve always identified with the crisp days of fall. I’ve seen them as a new start. The beginning of the winter season. A time to feel reenergized, a time to dream, a time to make big plans.

After a 10-month work stint in Las Vegas, I packed up my baby van and headed east to meet the girls.

Photographer Savannah Cummins has been a longtime friend of mine. We’ve climbed all over together, and seen each other through thick and thin. I was on my way to meet Sav in the southern Utah desert, a place that was very familiar and held a lot of strong memories for me. Savannah was rolling around climbing with Bronwyn Hodgins, an accomplished Canadian rock climber I’d heard so much about. She insisted that the three of us get together. It seemed like an obvious crew for a good time.

I quickly came to adore Bronwyn. She’s a no nonsense, down to business climber with a love for all the fun things in life. I watched her onsight 12b high off the deck in Zion by day, and dance around the fire in her party tutu by night. The three of us quickly had some beauty days under our belt after a few weeks on the road.

Zion National park was once a place I spent a lot of time in. I worked as a canyoneering guide in Springdale Utah while living out of my old white pick-up truck. My whole life in Zion is a blur of big walls, slot canyons, river beers and mega ice climbs with the late great Scott Adamson. We rode our bikes around that town like we owned it, grabbing coffees over at Deep Creek while pouring over maps of all the big ranges. Scott was always planning and scheming for the next adventure. He was my partner in crime for nearly 4 years, when he and Kyle Dempster vanished while climbing the Ogre II in the Karakoram mountains of Pakistan.

After Scott passed, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to Zion, although it was the very place that had brought me some of the most magical days of my life. Those days where you remember the feeling in your chest, the shapes of the clouds, the smell of the air. It felt like the story had gone all wrong. That he should have been there. And without him, it just wouldn’t be the same.

I always had a longing to go back. I always wanted to rediscover the walls, and all the ice lines we had established together. But I doubted my strength; I doubted my mental fortitude. If I went back, would there be beauty for me? Or would it just be a painful reminder of the void that is left without Scott by my side? For whatever reason, that fall felt like the first time I could mentally go there. With the changing of seasons, I felt hope and excitement. I wondered if the ice would be in, and what the canyon would feel like after all these years. My heart was set on going back to Zion.

Talking with the girls around the desert campfire it was agreed upon: we all wanted to go to Zion. Savannah wanted to be there to document my homecoming, and Bronwyn was more than excited to see the desert walls covered in ice and give the climbing her all. The girls were in.

We played around on a smaller desert ice climb in Parowan canyon and Bronwyn got to dust off her ice skills. She has only been out a few times on ice! In-between our ice missions we stayed busy sport climbing and trad climbing between St. George and Springdale. Man, was she a sight to see. That girl just dances up rock, always smiling. I was just coming off an eight-month injury of multiple fractures of my foot, and I remember it feeling better than ever to go climbing. Feeling a part of the community and even not at my best, so able bodied. Just as we were planning to head in for Zion, Bronwyn's husband Jacob Cook was flying into town. Jacob had just come off his first long ice trip in the Canadian Rockies. His and Bronwyn’s enthusiasm for ice and adventure was over the top and I loved it. It instantly made me feel at home. It reminded me of the stoke Scott and I had as we went tromping for 17 days straight on no sleep in search of the perfect desert ice line.

When we went into Zion to climb, I was so nervous. Would it be in? Are we going to get the car stuck? Am I just going to cry my eyes out? Is my foot feeling good enough for hard climbing? My mind was drifting as I led the crew in, meandering through the ponderosa pines. All of a sudden, there we were. The familiar view from the rim, the cattails lining the water path. The trees were just as I remembered, each one marking a particular memory: an anchor, a place I hung my backpack, a backrest for a smitten hug.

The ice was in, the climbing went off without a hitch. It felt good. And it felt right to be there. Jacob and Brownyn were all smiles and it set me at ease. I loved seeing people love the canyon the way Scott had; they were bright eyed and so excited to be dangling from the iced up sandstone walls. I still cried my eyes out, but Bronwyn held me close.

Our trip to the desert was a transition for me. It wasn’t just the changing of the seasons. I felt connected to my crew out there taking on the hard climbs and the hard parts of life, and walked away from this trip feeling restored. That I could hold my past with my future and still grow. I felt connected to Bronwyn, Sav and Jacob through these shared experiences in the mountains. This kept that momentum going into my winter season. I trained hard in the mountains and forged new and energetic friendships. I had a successful expedition to Alaska just months later where my body, heart and mind felt aligned. I couldn't help but think that my time in the desert was a part of that success. Thank you to all my friends who make life and the navigation of it so meaningful.

The Kit List

  1. Ascent Red
  2. Dark Butternut
  3. Deep Ink
  4. Berry
  5. Ink
  6. Red Grapefruit

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Words by | Angela VanWiemeersch
Images by | Sav Cummins


Beginning in 2014, Angela joined fellow Rab Athlete Scott Adamson for an explosive spurt of large ice route development in Southwest Utah. Over the course of three weeks Angela and Scott established nearly a dozen ice routes up to 450’ tall.

Read more about Angela here