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Bennies Brook - Post Graduate Version - March 15, 2015

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  • Bennies Brook - Post Graduate Version - March 15, 2015

    They say this is supposed to be Slide Climbing 101 or a beginner's slide, and probably on a dry summer day, it would be. This was my second winter time on Bennies and neither time was particularly easy. Ice and snow definitely were the culprits for that. Among others, I have previously been on the Eagle Slide and Trap Dike, summer and winter several times, so I know a few things about steep granite and ice/snow climbing.

    On a moderate winter day, eight of us started off at the Garden Parking. On the team were Alison, Diane, Lynn, Mylène, Rachel, Ranjan, and Yves. Not wanting to deal with a winter crossing of John's Brook, we elected to take the north side trail to the Interior Outpost and cross the brook on the bridge there, and then double back along the south side trail. The initial trail was super hard packed, so we stayed in MicroSpikes until the south side trail. There were no traces of any footprints after the Wolf Jaws junction, nor anywhere near or on the slide itself, despite hearing of a large group of skiers and hikers who were supposed to have come here the weekend before.

    At about noon, we started up the slide. So far, so good. Lots of deep fresh snow everywhere, so snowshoes were more than necessary. Definitely elementary trekking for the first 45 minutes or so. Things got interesting when we reached the steeper portions of the slide.

    It would have been tedious, not to mention finger numbing, to switch back and forth between snowshoes and crampons, but there were definitely some places where the latter would have been the better choice of traction. That being said, snowshoes got us to the top, but there were several places of thigh deep snow where we had to struggle and scramble to slowly get up the steeper icier sections. Also, the limited visibility made it hard to get relative bearings and see what was ahead. You sometimes have to choose your paths carefully up there.

    By the time we got to the really steep section where you exit on the left to bushwhack to the top of the ridge, over two hours later, we were very happy to be done with all that snow. That was definitely a tough and tiring two hours to travel 1.5 miles (2.4km). The actual temperature was never more than several degrees below freezing, but two hours in the fairly constant wind can chill a body down. Fortunately, the wind was mostly on our backs.

    My original plan was to get up to Lower Wolf Jaw and then return by way of Hedgehog and Roostercomb. However, seeing that the Great Range Trail towards those peaks was deep with snow and unbroken, we elected to take the regular trail back down towards John's Brook and from there retrace our original steps. We were done with bushwhacking and breaking trail for the day. Another two or three hours down along the almost paved sidewalk trail and we were back at the parking lot.

    For anyone thinking of Bennies in the winter, DO NOT scrimp on equipment or fail to take it seriously. For sure, about a week ago, before a fair bit of fresh snow came down, it might have been an easy, albeit icy walk up. But with a lot of fresh deep snow, it can give you quite the workout. That's certainly what we got. Some avalanche awareness might also be a good prerequisite. It was fine on Sunday but I can envision some circumstances where a large wide slab could give way, triggered by a few climbers' footsteps.

    Regardless, we had another super awesome day in the mountains and a few open slide first-timers got a good taste of Adirondack life in the fast lane.

    ALL PHOTOS by Lynn, Yves & me:

    A good view of Bennies Brook as seen from Big Slide. Photo taken a few months ago.

    Probably only visible in winter with the foliage gone, we had a decent view of the slide and Lower Wolf Jaw through the trees while hiking in on the North Side trail. Even through the trees, you can see the distinctive “Y” junction up high.

    Getting a close up look from the John's Brook bridge made me happy that we added a kilometer to our route so that we didn't have to try crossing the brook by foot.

    Here we are starting up, still near the bottom, without snowshoes. Very soon in the deep snow, we switched to snowshoes.

    Still not far from the bottom, but you can see some of the icy "obstacles" we would have to climb over or get around.

    We are approaching the Y junction that you can see clearly in the top photo.

    Visibility was low, but you can see this view of the Brothers and Big Slide as seen from our route. Or at least imagine those mountains through the fog.

    Ranjan standing just below the Y junction. One day I will check out the left branch and see where it goes.

    Taken by Yves from high up on the slide, this gives a good sense of the whole route. it was an exhilarating but tough slog up there.

    A selfie taken of our motley crew at the summit of Lower Wolf Jaw. From Left: Yves, Lynn, Diane, Rachel, Mylène, Alison, Ranjan & me.
    "How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top." ~ Yvon Chouinard

  • #2
    So great to finally see a Bennies report- I've been waiting to see one for planning. Hoping to go the 28th. I see that on the slide itself there are open ice patches. What is the ice like? Not shatters-like-glass I hope. I know that you were wearing snowshoes and not crampons and I didnt see any ice axes in the photos and all so you may not be able to say...
    "Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck." -Roald Amundsen

    ADK 46- 35/46


    • #3
      Originally posted by HRS Nomad View Post
      Hoping to go the 28th. I see that on the slide itself there are open ice patches. What is the ice like? Not shatters-like-glass I hope. I know that you were wearing snowshoes and not crampons and I didnt see any ice axes in the photos and all so you may not be able to say...

      Hi Nomad: We didn't bring any ice axes. Nothing there really steep enough to warrant them, IMHO. Crampons, however, are another matter.

      Because it had been unusually warm the previous week, we had large sections of open ice, much of it soft, but some of it still bulletproof, interspersed with large sections of fresh thigh deep snow on steeper sections that was challenging to get through, even with snowshoes. In other words, we had mixed conditions.

      If, in the 11 days until your trip, the snow settles and hardens, along with the ice, you may very well be able to walk straight up in just crampons. We had large sections that looked like solid ice we could walk on, but when we did, we broke through the ice crust into deep snow. Take an ice axe, if you want, but absolutely bring crampons, along with the snowshoes. MicroSpikes might be able to do the trick, but you never know.

      Of course, anything could happen in the next two weeks. Nothing there is very steep, but many parts of it are exposed and you wouldn't want to take a tumble, so traction is key.

      Good luck with your trip. Feel free to ask for any other info.
      "How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top." ~ Yvon Chouinard