Product Testing: Angel's Landing in a Monsoon
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Product Report - Rain Shadow Jacket
Activity - Hiking, Zion National Park
Tested by - Chip B., Patagonia Customer Service
Wed. Aug 6th found my boys and I at Zion National Park, ready to hike Angel's Landing. It was sunny and hot, in the low 90's. Thunderheads were building in the distance in every direction; harbingers of impending doom. Being monsoon season, I figured I'd better pack our rain shells before we got on the shuttle. Feeling like a casual tourist, I wore GI II Shorts [ed note: only Gi II Pants are avail. this fall], a Puckerware Shirt, and a Spoonbill Cap. The outfit was airy and comfortable for the hike up, despite the 90+ degree heat. This is an incredible hike and I would recommend it to anyone, unless you have acrophobia.
The paved trail ends at a saddle with a great view, and from there the trail goes up a very exposed ridge to the top, over what seems like another ½ mile. At one point it is about 3½ feet wide with a straight drop of 1200' on one side and 900' on the other. There are steel chains you can hold onto if needed, but they're only a few inches off the ground. The 4-foot garter snake that jumped out of the rocks in front of me seemed not the least bit concerned with the precipice on either side. The view from the top was amazing, but the sky was darkening quickly.
Before long there was thunder and we decided to start back. Half-way down, there were a few little raindrops. About 15 seconds after we remarked on how fat the drops were getting, we were in a flood of near biblical proportions. By the time I could get my rain shell out of my pack, I was completely soaked, even through my shoes. Still, I thought it would be better to have my shell on.
A strong wind came up and I couldn't see into it because of the rain. I came down the last couple hundred feet backwards, glad that I'd yet to see any lightning. The boys were already waiting for me at the saddle where we could look around and enjoy the show.
The cliffs across from us, several hundred feet high, turned in to dozens of waterfalls. Every indentation in the rock had a waterfall running down it, some little, some big. The creek bed at the bottom that was bone dry when we hiked up was now a raging torrent to our right, but still dry to our left. We were just contemplating this when we saw the head of the stream come through, maybe half a foot deep, making its way down the canyon.
It's kind of funny that the coolest part of our trip was during the worst weather we encountered. Although we were already wet underneath, all of our rain shells worked great. We walked around enjoying the phenomena while the other 20-30 people on the trail were trying to hide from it. I wore the Rain Shadow, which was large enough to put over my Scree daypack. Terran had a Specter Jacket(Spring 2005), lightest and most packable of the three. Aiden wore a Lightning Jacket(Spring 2003), which has a more streamlined fit with a drop tail, giving him more coverage on the rear. The Lightning Jacket also had the best hood, it seemed tailor-made for his face. Terran and I wrestled with our hoods for a few minutes to get them in the right position, but they still didn't fit as well.
At one point on the way back, the trail was completely covered by a waterfall with nowhere to go but right through it. Still, water just rolled off our shells. Of course, we were soaked from the waist down, but nobody cared. By the time we rode the shuttle back to town, the rain had temporarily let up and our shells were almost dry.
[Photos: Chip Billharz]