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False Cairn Confusion on Slides - Dix from Round Pond Sat 9/10/17

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  • False Cairn Confusion on Slides - Dix from Round Pond Sat 9/10/17

    Due to life and Sunday road closures tackled Dix from Round Pond for #44 on Saturday. Not expecting views due to clouds and ok w/ forecasted sprinkles, surprised pleasantly with bright moon and stars 5am to 7am from SW corner of Adk Park to exit 30. Other half of party coming through LP to Keene Valley said could not see the mountains (all of them, not just peaks) down the Loj Rd from 73 due to clouds rain. Definately localized.

    Onto the hike, full breakfast at Noonmark of course, on trail at 8am about 10 cars in parking area. No concerns past the LT, following the creek out to base of slide about 3400' vertical (maybe a bit less, altimeter not 100% dead due to weather).

    Then the (not) fun began. Our group of three following two other groups behind them and onto slide. So nine people, three groups, four dogs.
    Mistake #1 - referring to older High Peaks trails book that is out of print
    Mistake #2 - follow others rather than be 100% sure where trail goes
    Mistake #3 - follow false cairns
    Mistake #4 - even at base of slide, cloudy, foggy, hazy so using cairn to cairn method, rather than solid understanding of ADK High Peaks description (i had copies of both books with me) which I read multiple times going up the slide 400 feet bearing right, down 100 feet, back up 100 or 200 ft the left side, second dead end. Then to bottom of slide. Read description again. It says cross the slide, trail goes left. Reading the ADK book with clear head Sunday morning, makes more sense. No idea where the older book I referred to above is going (Beyond the meadow - what? maybe pre-Irene)?

    Ok maybe add a few words - Cross the slide TO THE RIGHT then the trail goes left up to Dix (not up North slides). Root cause of my learnings:
    FALSE CAIRNS! Why why why do people make these up the slides? The entrance to trail on the right had to couple of hiking sticks on top of the yellow blaze. The blue state marker is viewable coming down the slide, not up it. 2 or 3 really really well built cairns.

    Unfortunately, upon reaching the intended markers, looked up the slide, saw more cairns (why?? why??) that were fake in the fog and followed up, after other groups, all made same mistake.

    Slide was so slippery! Almost all of us fell due to misting, dogs not happy, and the red slime much worse than Allen 5 weeks ago. TWO Hours later I located the trail off the slide, two minutes from the exit of brook mentioned above.

    Lessons learned, yes, all part of the journey. Mental and physical tiring, regrouped and the 1500 steep vertical left was not too bad. Its the journey, not the destination.

    Will do Dix again next year, in the sun, laughing at this years experience. All good.....bear right off the slide, early, quicker, turn left and climb. Got it!

  • #2
    The entrance to the trail off the slide has not changed for many years. I can say for sure since 1998 when I first went that way. I've read the slides occurred after a big rain event in June 1990.

    I re-read the 12th and 13the edition of the ADK guide. I don't have the new one. Both are identical and do not describe the slide in any detail. It reads the same '...Crossing the base of the slide the trail swings left....' which is correct. After you've left the slide the trail starts perpendicular to the slide then turns left.

    On cairns. People are building cairns all the time now. It can be a problem as you found. They build them everywhere. Even when the route is obvious and sometimes where not.

    An example of a stupid cairn. A month or so ago someone had built a new tall cairn in the direction of Gray from the summit. So, opposite the direction that you go to follow the trail to 4 corners. I came along and directed an unknowing hiker to the right direction. Then I knocked the cairn down.

    Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 09-10-2017, 05:51 PM.


    • Trail Boss
      Trail Boss commented
      Editing a comment

      Cleaning up the backcountry, one worthless pile of rocks at a time.

  • #3
    I don't have the latest edition of the guidebook but the description in the 12th and 13th editions is the same.

    "... arrives at the base of a large slide at 5.8 mi. Crossing the base of the slide, the trail swings L and ... Paralleling the slide until 5.8 mi., the trail swings away and begins an unrelenting steep climb ..."

    ​In other words, upon arriving at the slide (5.8 mi.) you cross its base, turn uphill (left) and parallel the slide for a very short distance (it mentions 5.8 mi. twice), and then swing away from the slide (i.e. turn right) into the woods.

    Based on my experience, I can understand how "turn L" can cause confusion because, in practice, there's little "turning left". Most people emerge on the slide and cross it diagonally; there's no 90-degree turn uphill.

    ​Here's the spot that caused you confusion: I made sure it was quite clear when I drew the slide and the trail.

    ​Here's a tip: the only official cairns to be found in the High Peaks are above treeline on Marcy, Algonquin, and Wright. All others are created by the general public, often for reasons that have nothing to do with navigation. The official cairns are for navigating alpine terrain in poor visibility. Official cairns do not mark junctions.

    Looking for Views!


    • #4
      Yeah its "trail turns left" that threw us off. It does turn left, after you exit the slide, on the right. Oh well. Its the McMartin book that talks about the meadow, in the Discover series, Even though the reprint was from later 1990, the original was 1989 I believe, which aligns to your date. ADK guide could add "exit the slide on the right" Yes, cairns were fustratingly destroyed on the way down the slide to hopefully help others.


      • Hear the Footsteps
        Hear the Footsteps commented
        Editing a comment
        I re-read the Discover the High Peaks Description. At this point in time I say there's too much detail except for the mention to climb about 200 feet (lineal not vertical.) That sounds about right for the exit/entrance back to the trail.


      • Trail Boss
        Trail Boss commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm sending you a complimentary pair of steel-toed Cairnbusters boots.

    • #5
      TB as usual, you nailed it. Map is perfect. Also, was not aware the only official cairns are on those three peaks. Thanks for sharing that!


      • Trail Boss
        Trail Boss commented
        Editing a comment
        You'll also notice the official cairns are built to last, typically with a mason's attention to detail.

        "User-built" cairns are often just a random stack of rocks. Sometimes it's an impressive stack made of hefty stones but a stack nevertheless. The majority of them are in places that need no cairns ... like Macomb's slide where I eliminated 16 cairns earlier this summer ... but I'll bet there'll all back by now.

    • #6
      Indeed a trouble spot which I noted when I went up on Sept 2nd. It was a sunny day and I knew where I was going so I crossed the slide and popped into the woods as I always have. I saw a few cairns that crossed the slide in the appropriate place as well as the yellow paint (maybe a little faded) across the rock... but to be honest, I didn't look uphill too closely to see if there were other cairns above the trail .

      Later in the day, as I was descending, I could hear lots of voices out on the slide while I was still a long way above the junction. I assumed maybe there were some folks opting to climb the slide - and good on them if that was their intended goal. By the time I popped out of the woods at the base there was a couple just headed up past the trail on the far (wrong) side of the slide. Another small group was much further up the slide but they had clearly turned back (and looked to quicken their step when they saw me come out of the woods)... and a few more came out of the woods at the base of the slide and were happy to get exact detail on where the trail actually went.

      Clearly a trouble spot for many. Looking at a few of my photos from the hike I don't see any specific cairns up hill of the trail... but there are maybe a few smaller piles of rocks (built? haphazard? I can't really tell from my pictures) a little higher up. That said, perhaps this is a spot for a trail sign.... and some freshening up of the paint blazes on the rocks?


      • #7

        One simple "Trail =>" sign, nailed at eye-level, ought to do the trick. Bonus would be a DEC marker on it.

        Looking for Views!