Yesterday I hiked with Josh Wilson to Avalanche Pass to check out the condition of the trail in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. The short story is that the trail sustained quite a bit more damage than the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which I hiked on Saturday.
After we reached Avalanche Lake, I took the above photo of the Trap Dike on Mount Colden. Comparing it with the photo on the right, taken in 2009, you’ll see that the dike—at least as much of it as we can see—has been stripped of vegetation. Note the chocolate color of lake.
While comparing the photos, bear in mind than an avalanche ripped through the dike a few winters ago, and some trees were taken out then.
Because Irene created a slide near the summit of Colden that washed into the dike, I wondered I the upper part of the dike would be clogged with debris. Apparently that’s not the case, judging by this account from a Canadian hiker who climbed the dike this weekend. Click here to read my article on climbing the Trap Dike in 2009.
The most notable damage to the Avalanche Pass trail occurred along Marcy Brook, which undercut the trail in two sections, and in the pass itself, where a slide buried the trail in mud.
Hikers familiar with the trail know that it came close to Marcy Brook a short way from Marcy Dam. During Irene, the brook eroded the bank along the trail. To replace these sections, the state Department of Environmental Conservation cut reroutes of 130 yards and 30 yards. Piles of boulders in the streambed attest to power of raging water.
After reaching the height of land in Avalanche Pass, and passing the slide created by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, hikers beginning the descent to Avalanche Lake will notice a new slide on the left. Unlike, the Floyd slide, this slide did not push a wall of trees onto the trail. It did, however, deposit a thick layer of soft mud for fifty yards or so. This part of the trail will remain sloppy until the mud gets packed down and/or dries out.
Hikers also will find that a few planks on the Hitch-Up Matilda bridges along Avalanche Lake are missing. Thus, sections of the bridges are one plank wide instead of two. One short section has lost both planks, but since it’s at the end of the bridge, hikers can lower themselves to the shore and continue on the trail.
We saw little other evidence of damage on the trail. DEC cut through a few trees and put down some new planking in the pass.
On our hike out, Josh and I explored the new slide in the pass. Most of the slide is clean white anorthosite, the durable rock that makes up most of the High Peaks. As you can see from the photo, it has a double fall line. It could prove to be a difficult ski in winter—if DEC allows snowshoers and skiers on the slide. The Floyd slide is closed in winter to avoid the risk of avalanche.
Incidentally, we ran into Bill Ingersoll, the guidebook author, at Marcy Dam, who spent the weekend in the High Peaks. Starting at Adirondak Loj, he hiked through the pass to Lake Colden and camped near Feldspar Brook. The next day he climbed over Marcy and returned via the Van Hoevenberg Trail. He reported minimal damage on most trails. The worst damage he saw was on the Avalanche Pass trail.