New slide guide

With Gothics in the background, a hiker climbs the new slide on Saddleback Mountain. Photo by Brendan Wiltse.

By Phil Brown

The slides created or enlarged by Irene have given hikers and skiers new terrain to explore. Slides often entail a difficult bushwhack, but many of Irene’s creations extend all the way to a trail or come close. Easy access doesn’t mean easy. A bad fall could be fatal. With that warning, here are five new or improved slides we like.

Saddleback Mountain

Several new slides in the Johns Brook valley can be easily reached by trails. One of the longest and most spectacular ends just shy of the summit of Saddleback Mountain.

This photo shows the enlarged Bennies Brook slide on Lower Wolf Jaw. Photo by Carl Heilman II.

To get to the slide, take the Ore Bed Brook Trail, starting at the suspension bridge over Johns Brook near the ranger’s cabin. At 1.7 miles from the bridge (and 0.25 miles past a lean-to), you come to a house-size boulder on the right side of the trail. The slide, visible on the right, is a short bushwhack from the boulder. The other option is to stay on the trail: it will skirt the edge of the slide in another 0.8 miles.

If you get on the slide near the boulder, you’ll do some rock-hopping as you advance up Ore Bed Brook. In a half-mile, you come to clean, wide slabs, and soon after you pass the hiking trail.

The slope of the slab is mellow at first, but it increases significantly as you ascend. At 1.6 miles from the boulder, you come to a wall that must be surmounted or circumvented. You next reach a dike, a foot or two wide, in the center of the slab that can be climbed to the top of the slide. It’s a great finish. Although the headwall is steep (at least thirty-five degrees), the dike is stepped.

One of best things about the Saddleback slide is the superb view of the bare rock on the north face of Gothics. After the slide, you need to bushwhack a tenth of a mile to Saddleback’s summit. The easiest route is to angle left from the slide.

Returning on the Ore Bed Brook Trail, you’ll cross an old slide that has been considerably enlarged by Irene. In winter, skiers will be able to bag both slides (and their spurs). “This is going to be like a ski area,” remarked Ron Konowitz, a veteran backcountry skier.

Skiers also are looking forward to trying the Bennies Brook slide on Lower Wolf Jaw. Bennies has been a popular ski destination for years, but Irene extended the slide all the way to Johns Brook and the Southside Trail, eliminating the bushwhack. Hikers can take the slide all the way to the summit trail.

Trap Dike

The Trap Dike on Mount Colden is one of the oldest mountaineering routes in the country and an exhilarating way to get to the top of an Adirondack High Peak.  The guidebook Adirondack Rock awards it five stars, the highest rating for the overall quality of a climb.

Irene has made the climb even better. Not only did it clean out trees and other vegetation in the dike, but it created a new exit slide that leads almost to Colden’s summit.

The Trap Dike, however, should not be undertaken lightly. As a hiker’s death in September reminds us, a slip in the wrong place can be fatal (page 17). Rock-climbing or approach shoes are recommended. Some parties rope up.

The climb begins on the southeast side of Avalanche Lake. To reach the dike, follow a herd path from the west end of the lake.  Just after entering the narrow canyon, you arrive at the first of two waterfalls. The second waterfall comes soon after. It’s steep and about forty feet high, but with plenty of rock steps and ledges.

In the past, climbers left the dike at one of two exit points after the second waterfall and ascended to the summit via a wide slide. That option is still available, but you can now follow the dike to the new slide instead. The climb from the lake to the slide is 0.8 miles.

The new slide’s steep footwall can be surmounted by a left-rising ramp on the right side or by cracks on the left side.

The slope on the main part of the slide varies, but it’s often greater than forty degrees. Although the second waterfall has always been considered the crux of the climb, a slip on the new slide could be just as dangerous. This is especially true if you fall high up: the slide is 0.4 miles long.

The slide steepens at the very top. When I climbed it, there was mud to deal with as well. I chose to bail left into the woods about ten yards from the end. After the slide, you have a short bushwhack (maybe twenty-five yards) to the summit trail.

Cascade Mountain

Motorists driving between Keene and Lake Placid on Route 73 can see clear evidence of Irene’s power: a long bedrock scar running down the northwest flank of Cascade Mountain.

The slide offers hikers an adventurous route to the summit, one that’s much more interesting than the crowded trail. It’s easily accessible via a short herd path that begins at the picnic area between the Cascade Lakes.

Near the base of the slide, you encounter the long waterfall that gives the mountain its name. Experienced climbers may want to ascend the rocks beside the waterfall, but a slip can result in serious injury or death. Most people should take to the woods on the left.

Above the waterfall, the climbing gets easier, though some scrambling is necessary. You’ll pass smaller waterfalls and flumes and enjoy views of Pitchoff Mountain, the McKenzie Range, and other peaks.

After a mile or so, you come to a horizontal band of rock at the top of the slide. To continue to the summit, turn left and follow the band to a short old slide. Follow the right side of this slide to its end, then bushwhack through mostly open woods toward the mountaintop (set your compass at 125 degrees). In less than a half-mile, you’ll emerge on the summit rocks.

To return, you can take the 2.2-mile hiking trail back to Route 73. From the trailhead, it’s a 0.75-mile walk along the road to the picnic area, making a loop of about five miles.

Given its proximity to the highway, Jesse Williams of Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides expects that the Cascade slide will be a popular ski trip. Much of the route is fairly mellow, but skiers will need to take to the woods to avoid the big waterfall (which, incidentally, is an outstanding two-pitch ice climb).

Wright Peak

In 1999, Tropical Storm Floyd created two short slides on the east side of Wright Peak that have been popular with hikers and skiers. They are called the Angel Slides in memory of a telemark skier who died in an avalanche there.

The angled slide on Wright Peak. Photo by Carl Heilman II.

Irene carved out a third and much longer slide that provides easy access to the first two as well as a new hiking/skiing route.

To reach the mile-long slide, follow the path on the north side of the Marcy Dam pond (now a mudflat) to the Memorial Lean-to west of the pond. From there, bushwhack a quarter-mile, heading southwest, to the rubbly start of the slide.

The slide ascends a streambed. In a quarter-mile, you pass through a little gorge and soon after come to a fork where the slide splits. Either way you go, you will encounter tree jams. Perhaps the best strategy is to go up the left fork to an impassable pile of trees and then head right through a thin strip of forest to the other fork. Once on that fork, stay to the right.

In a short distance, the forks rejoin below a wide slab of bedrock. The right half of the slab is cleaner. The slab is much steeper than the rubbly approach: it gains 650 feet in elevation in 0.3 miles. It offers a nice view of many High Peaks.

The Angel Slides can be reached by a short bushwhack from the base of the slab. Head left (southeast) into the woods. Skiers will be able to bag all three slides and then enjoy a pleasant run to Marcy Dam.

The new slide takes a sharp turn below the slab, so I suggest calling it the Angle Slide to distinguish it from the Angel Slides. More likely, people will refer to it as the New Angel Slide.

Avalanche Pass

Hikers will have no trouble locating this slide: it deposited debris and a layer of mud on the trail in Avalanche Pass. For those with the right skills, the slide can be climbed for its own sake or as an alternative route to Mount Colden.

During Tropical Storm Floyd, another landslide buried the trail at the height of land in Avalanche Pass. Hikers skirt this slide and its debris pile on the way to Avalanche Lake. The slide created by Irene begins a few minutes farther down the trail on the left.

The new slide is unusual in that it has a double fall line: it tilts sharply to the left as you climb. The side angles are steep enough (sometimes more than 40 degrees) that I would recommend wearing rock-climbing shoes. This is not a slide for beginners.

While ascending, you enjoy ever-expanding views of the MacIntyre Range and other peaks. Toward the top, the slide loses its sideways tilt, but the forward slope is very steep. When I climbed the slide, I stuck to the left edge here. It led to a short old slide that I followed to its end.

From the top, you can bushwhack 0.35 miles to the summit of Little Colden: climb straight up a short distance to a ridge, then turn right (south) to follow the ridge up to Little Colden and its marvelous views of the High Peaks. Little Colden is a great destination in itself, but if you want even better views, you can pick up the trail here to Mount Colden.

Only expert skiers should try skiing the new slide. The crease that it follows had been skied in the past, according to Ron Konowitz, a longtime backcountry skier. He said it was dubbed Cruci-Flyer. Judging by the amount of debris at its base, the slide widened the route considerably, but it is still best left to experts.

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