Peaks Climbed: The Watchman & Johnson Mountain

Peak Heights: 6,545' / 6,120'

Route: West Face / East Face

Difficulty: Class 4

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Trailhead: Springdale

Mileage & Gain: 7.6 mi & 4,700 ft RT

Date Climbed: November 23, 2019

The Watchman, standing high and proud over the visitor center, is one of the big, iconic peaks of Zion Canyon. Like clockwork, dozens of spectators line the bridge at Canyon Junction every evening to capture the same sunset shot of The Watchman poised above the Virgin River. The first time I climbed this peak was a very memorable, near epic during which many hours were spent routefinding on its complex, gully-ridden west face. Since then an abundance of cairns have sprung up, completely altering the experience. I keep destroying them but they keep regenerating!

The lesser known Johnson Mountain resides above the town of Springdale, equally visible but largely ignored. The summit area is one of the coolest in Zion, a sanctuary of sorts. I’m partial to Johnson myself, partly because it puts up such a good fight. It initially took me two attempts to puzzle out the way to the top. Then when I went back a third time I wasted hours embarrasingly fumbling around trying to reconstruct the route before finally finding my way to the summit again. This time around I nailed it and it felt good to redeem myself!

This was my fourth ascent of The Watchman and my third successful ascent of Johnson Mountain. Revisiting these old friends always promises to be a special day out. There's a reason I keep coming back - this combo is about as classic as they come in terms of scrambling in the Zion backcountry and I really enjoy sharing it with friends who aren't very familiar with the Park yet.

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