Under perfect weather conditions, we walked along a sandy footpath up the gently sloping summit plateau of Lady Mountain. We were on a little isolated island of vegetation up here, with all sort of shrubs, plants, and a few trees. It felt like a rooftop desert garden. A minute or two of walking brought us to the eastern end of the summit plateau, and the highpoint. The dissatisfaction with last year's failed attempt melted away.
A small cluster of badly-eroded sandstone blocks marked the absolute highpoint. Nearby, though - and only a few feet lower - was a much more attractive spot: a flat point of sandstone with a table-like sandstone knob in its center. On the other side of the flat point was a huge drop off the eastern face of the mountain. Standing on the edge of this flat slab, we could look essentially straight down to the canyon floor. We also had a grand sweep of virtually all of our ascent route.
Also on the table-like sandstone knob was a remnant of the heyday of travel up Lady Mountain : a large round disk of metal, perhaps made of bronze. This slab was affixed to the top of the sandstone knob, and on its face were a number of raised pointers - each pointer indicating one of major nearby points of interest: Observation Point, 6508 ft; West Temple, 7795 ft; The Great White Throne, 6744 ft.
Even though it was now 4pm, and we knew that we still had a fairly tough descent to make before sunset, we couldn't help but spend a few more minutes up here enjoying what was, without a doubt, an incredible view. This view is arguably much better than the view from Angel's Landing or even Observation Point. In addition to great views of Zion Canyon, Lady Mountain also affords great views not available from either of the former two (much more visited) lookouts: views of the rarely-seen high country immediately to the west: mysterious green islands of vegetation, completely isolated from lower terrain by large swaths of clean wide Navajo slickrock. Additionally, the relatively high elevation of Lady Mountain allowed distant views to Zion's high country, and to the distant Vermillion Cliffs region to the south. In all, very impressed with Lady Mountain's summit experience. Well worth the climb!
Zion's Grandeur from Lady Mtn
Brian Climbed from Where?
Ghostly, Spidery Branches
Tearing ourselves from the ideal conditions (absolutely no wind, and a perfect mild temperature), we began our walk back. We had a lot of down-scrambling and climbing bits to negotiate, and although we wanted to do it swiftly, we also wanted to do it safely. And hopefully, finish before dark. And before the last of the canyon shuttle buses, which we believed to be at 7:45pm. It would be a long, long walk down the road to the campground if we arrived later than that!
The first part of the descent, from the summit back to the end of the ridgecrest, involved nearly no scrambling and was over in fifteen short minutes. We then turned east and began the long, long descent. Owing to the now late hour of the day, we immediately were in the shade, and would remain so for the rest of the descent.
The Downscrambling Begins
Handline for Reassurrance
A reasonably quick but prudent descent down the deep gully (with a handline at the one spot that was a touch steeper) brought us to the top of the Endless Staircase. One might think that the staircase, with its downsloping sandstone steps, would be nerve-wracking, but I didn't (and seemingly the others didn't either) find it all that bad. The grip is very good and the distance between the steps is fairly small. One gets into the groove and marches down the steps, rarely even needing to use one's hands for support, even though this is clearly class-3 terrain.