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Old 05-13-2012, 06:16 PM   #1
mudrat
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Skylight Bushwhack/Slides: A Bushwhack Down Panther Gorge with 2 Marcy Slides

Disclaimer

Sorry the title is a mouthful...

Date: 2012 May 12
PICTURES
Partner:
Krummholz
Mileage/Elevation Gain:
18 miles/6500’
Duration:
17 hours, 40 minutes; 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. with 20 minute respite at JBL.
Food:
2 eggs, 2 loaves banana bread, protein bar, starburst, some shared food from Krummholz (thank you!)
Pack weight:
25 lbs.
Water:
4 liters (I did not drink enough)

Route:
Garden to Haystack/Marcy col. Bushwhack through Panther Gorge to Grand Central Slide base. Follow bottom of Marcy East Face to southern ‘white’ slide track and climb to top. (Anyone have a name for this slide???) Bushwhack on-contour to easternmost slide on south face (confusing, I know…see pic below). Follow down to Panther Gorge. Bushwhack to path. Follow path south to confluence of Marcy Brook and main tributary from Skylight eastern face. Follow tributary up. Traverse to widest rubble slide. Bushwhack to summit. Descend Skylight via path, climb Marcy and follow trail to Garden.

Where to begin…I’ve been scoping Skylight’s eastern tributary for years. Krummholz and I discussed a bushwhack from the south from Allen and it evolved into this. I’ve also been scoping the lighter slide track to the south of the main open face on Marcy. I assumed it was too steep to climb. It’s steep and exposed, but we worked it out. Finally, I’ve wanted to bushwhack from the trail at the Marcy/Haystack col through Panther Gorge. Today took care of all three aspirations.



Rough approximation of the bushwhack and route back over Marcy (appologies for the poor 'stitching' job.

On the Trail

Krummholz and I met at the Garden trailhead and began walking at 5:00 a.m., chatting and waking up under an ever lightening sky. It was in the low thirties and brisk, but quite nice. The forecast called for temps in the low 70’s. The sky grew more blue as we discussed possibilities for the day. I ran the idea of the Marcy slide by him if we both felt well and were making good time. He’d previously risen to the idea and we agreed to assess our strength and the time once in the area.

The time went by quickly as the sun broke the ridgeline and began to heat the air. The chill immediately departed and we eagerly anticipated what lay ahead for the day. Our first trial began at Slant Rock when ice and snow plagued the trail. Neither of us had spikes or traction so we simply took care on the ascent as the snow spine built ever deeper with elevation. A few post holes and thousands of carefully placed steps eventually led to the Marcy/Haystack col at 8:30 a.m. I’d hoped to make the area by 9:00…we were ahead of schedule.


The elevation began to drop away as we trekked south-southwest. The drainage had several feet of unconsolidated and rotten snow, so we stayed to the west side finding the path of least resistance. It was moderately loose meaning I could easily bend or get my shoulders through the trees. Most intriguing was the up close view of Little Haystack’s western side. The craggy side looks like a shadowed maze of chutes, slides and unique contours from Marcy’s summit. Up close the monstrous boulders/erratics, chutes, cliffs and steep slides take on a whole new light and made me feel insignificant as I looked up to these looming features. My mind wandered to a future exploration of the area even though we were currently in the midst of an exciting trek.


Marcy’s flank also held our interest with its cliffs, beautiful in the morning sun. I eventually led us to the base of the cliffs where the forest was open, at least for a time. The long grasses that are waist height at the end of summer were non existent at this time. Last years crop was brown underfoot and a bit slippery. The vertical walls and the glacial valley of Panther Gorge as a backdrop were incredible. Under the canopy, we wound around trunks, over some light blowdown and dropped down many a ledge or cluster of boulders draped with ‘hanging lakes’ of moss as Colvin called it. I was truly in awe of the area, Greg and I bantered back and forth amidst our wonder.


We were far ahead of schedule (even though we were both running on less the 4 hours sleep) so we opted to take a trip to the base of the Grand Central Slide (the right-hand and longest slide of the face). Contouring the slope a few hundred yards away from the cliffs was enjoyable. A few drainages, soft forest floor and some varied ups and downs led us below the near-vertical boulder climbs of the drainage. I recognized them from 2009 when Mark Lowell and I climbed this slide with weather closing in. Today, the sky was cloudless and early morning sun bright. The cascade in the cleft was of moderate flow and I climbed up into it to cool down and assess the crack from within…something I didn’t do in 2009. Greg took a pic for scale. The crack was choked with a rockfall all the way to the top of the cliff. By this time it was 9:40, 4.5 hours from the trailhead.


Un
der Marcy's Eastern Face, Southern 'White' Track and Descent down the Southern Slide
We descended the drainage until coming to a decent ramp on which to re-enter the woods on our journey south. A new rockfall from atop the right-hand side of Marcy’s open face (really a very steep slide more than cliff) left some fresh carnage some 200’ wide and 100’ in length. It effectively stripped the grassy meadow that I found in 2009. Beyond and directly under the face was an open expanse of ground that was to be our route south. It was a dramatic and beautiful area that was peaceful and serene. A few steeper descents were reminiscent of winter hiking…the butt-slide portion. Dead grasses were so slippery underfoot, that I simply sat and slid until coming to rest for the next traverse. I could have fallen asleep and bivouacked in these areas…Marcy’s dark, old exposure ledges above, Haystack across…beaver ponds glistening the the mid-morning sun, soft ground underfoot and great company next to me.

My questions on whether the southern slide track on the eastern face became less of a concern as we approached the base at 10:30 a.m.. I’d guess it at about 40 degrees with some steeper sections and a band of ledges, the crux, some 250 higher. I asked Greg if he was game, and there was no hesitation…we were committed (take that as you feel appropriate
).

I flipped into rock climbing shoes and took out my length of nylon webbing for emergencies and we were off. The anorthosite was cleaner than the old mossy face just a few feet north. Various ledges and crags led up the slide, while the ‘old’ face held more open pitches. We first had to get up the first pitch of ‘our’ slide however which proved to be a challenge. Down low, there was just enough water and moss on our chosen line along a ledge to make it uncomfortable. We descended to another area and another. Eventually we persevered, my rock shoes making it a bit easier than Greg’s vibram-soled boots.



Kevin nearing the crux 250' from the bottom.

The next hundred or so feet was climbing on steep rough and clean rock riddled with small ledges and crags. More than one line presented itself though we stayed close to the main face, following a crag that led upward. Two hundred and fifty feet higher, however, this placed us on the right-hand side of a vertical wall that traverses across the top of the main face, beginning near the Grand Central Slide. Before I jump into the crux climbs, I need to mention the views.


The sun had climbed high enough to be quite warm, but a strong breeze kept us comfortable. Haystack gleamed like an anorthositic jewel. The beaver ponds looked inviting from afar and Greg talked of paddling, or at least lazing about on a kayak catching some z’s on their surface. The steep face to the north and the curve of the valley and cliffs choked at the col from which we began the bushwhack a couple hours earlier. The dramatic ledges at the top of the face, also above us, lent a humbling feel to the scene and upcoming task.


To our left and above was the vertical ledge. Probably 15 or so feet in height to the north, it curved down onto our slide track and also decreased in height, from a solid wall to broken ledge sets below us and to our south. I had not desire to climb anything vertical when I was 250’ above the base with a steep pitch of rough stone between. A weakness, however, came into view nearby. Part of the face had sheared away and a few smaller steps led up to a small ledge of grass on which to traverse over to the smaller ledges to the south. We were at the crux of the climb. Greg explored a couple other options before following.



Greg at the crux.


Looking up Panther Gorge, even with the top of the main face.

Once on a more comfortable surface, we climbed to a second crux of sorts, another vertical climb (about 10 feet) up small steps and crags. I jammed my hand into a secure location. Short of my hand detaching from my arm, I felt very comfortable as I gripped the cracks and climbed onto the top of the main run of slide. The pitch decreased slightly as we were now even with the top of the main face (about 4000’ in our location). Greg easily followed and we walked up the remaining 100’ vertical feet of the slide to soak in the views and discuss the rest of the day, which had really only just begun. The time stood at 11:15 a.m.


After a 15 minute break of re-hydration and food, we left the top of the slide on a heading of 240 degrees (true). I wanted to avoid a fir wave that was directly below our elevation on this heading (which changes as you round the bend). Some 6 minutes later we were out of the woods in the middle of another slide. This slide is the eastern-most and very thin track of the wide slide set on Marcy’s southern face. It was about 35 degrees and obviously old due to the moss cover. A steady stream of water flowed from far above…we were only part way up, but I cared not about the top. This was just a route down. I relaxed as Greg refilled his platypus.



Our descent down the southern slide track.

Enough open rock was exposed to make it a safe descent, but we took it slowly and watched our footing carefully. Each pitch led to a cascade which amounted to a drop off a ledge. Some we climbed down and others we descended in the woods. It was quite enjoyable…how could it not be? The slope declined as we neared the main drainage from the primary set of slides (about 1800’ across in whole). At noon, we emerged into the main drainage just below a set of ledges where I
ate breakfast in 2010 before climbing this set.

A fifteen minute bushwhack over to the path from the Four Corners and quick descent down the trail led us to Panther Gorge Leanto at 12:25 where we relaxed and prepped for the main event…the bushwhack of Skylight.
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Old 05-13-2012, 06:17 PM   #2
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Part 2/2

Date:2012 May 12
Skylight Bushwhack and its Rubble Slide
Skylight’s eastern side has one dominant tributary that leads to some open old exposure slabs/ledges and a couple small slide tracks. These tracks are in bowl of sorts…higher it becomes steeper until topping the feature several hundred feet above. Guarding the top are ledges with cripplebursh and cedar growing with branches in a downward sweep. Atop and to the summit is a sea of dense cripplebrush. This was our target…yup, we’re dumber than the slab we climb! As the crow flies it’s about a mile to the summit from Marcy Brook. Add a little for elevation and a bit more to compensate for the fact that ‘whacking up ledges through cripplebrush takes you in anything but a straight line.

We followed the maintained trail south toward the sun and then bushwhacked over to Marcy Brook when the path tracked eastward. Neither of us had altimeter or gps, so it was all line of sight/solar and compass navigation …the perfect day for it. We intersected Marcy Brook farther south than I’d planned. The bowl was far to the northwest. Following Marcy Brook upward for a couple hundred feet we got a good view of Skylight and found a stream that appeared to be about the right size. It was only about 4’ wide at that point, but I knew it tapered and assumed it was probably our target. From what I know, the only other possibility would be one to the north, which I assume exists based on Skylight’s topography…feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here. Anyway, it was a nice rock up on an even grade along a heading of 300 degrees (true).


Typical drainage scene.

We eventually used to woods to climb as the stream became a bit choked. The woods were dense but bent easily to allow passage. The only problem is that we lost our visual guide of the slab. I dropped back into the drainage, which had cleared of obstacles short of boulders and found it was still running true to our target. We stayed in the stream from then forward. Large nodes of labradorite were especially plentiful in this area. Boulder upon boulder we climbed until, an hour later, we reached a mild bend in the drainage and a small sand slide on righthand side. I compared the character of the little slide to a picture I had on hand to find our location. A quick trek southwest then led us to the largest of the slide tracks, a meager run 600’ long and about 30’ wide. It was primarily rubble. Climbing it robbed us of energy as each step moved the unconsolidated debris. Atop the slide we began the true bushwhack. A few steps north in the spruce led to some old exposure faces, an unappealing climb up wet algae and moss encrusted steep slab. Greg made good time to the top of the pitch. I followed and then took to the refuge of the cedars.


Greg (top left in the lens flare) atop the largest section of slab.

In the short time between the rubble slide and slab, I’d lost a lot of energy. My legs began to shake and became apathetic…I needed sugar. After calling upward, I popped a couple starburst, enough to climb up to Greg who was seated atop a small cliff atop the slab. From the comfort of our little perch, we ate something more substantial for the push to the top. Spectacular views of the eastern mountains kept us company. Lenticular clouds piled four high built over Haystack and the Dix Range.

The following quarter mile was beyond horrible, but exactly what I expected…ah, cripplebrush, my friend. Or to put it another way…a climb through Krumholz with ‘Krummholz’! We had to climb out of the bowl which entailed fighting cedar and spruce, the first growing with a downwards sweep of branches. Underneath was either the steep sloper or vertical ledges up to about ten feet in height. Persistent climbing eventually led to a reward, more cripplebrush on the more gently sloping crown of the mountain. Each break, about every hundred feet was accompanied by a check of our heading…310 degrees. The summit cap of rock couldn’t be seen at any time, only a few erratics and eventually some exposed slab as we neared the top. The lenticulars built as we climbed.



In the cripplebrush (top Greg, bottom Kevin).


My original estimate to climb from Marcy Brook to the summit was four hours. We arrived at the top at 4:45 p.m, 3 hours and forty-five grueling hours after the start. It was everything I dreaded and didn’t quite hold up to what I expected. The top bowl just wasn’t as dramatic as I thougt it would be. Far from boring and definitely beautiful the entire way, I think our initial trek up the Marcy slides simply overshadowed the drama of Skylight. We’d been driving hard for 12 hours as we started down the northern trail of Skylight…on a lovely spine of ice and snow. My quadriceps readjusted to the new labor of keeping stable while sliding straight as opposed to off either side. Once at the trail intersection we ONLY had to climb over Marcy to end the elevation gain of the day.We took it deliberatly slow and topped out at 6:15 under strong winds at our backs.

Only a bit over 8 miles remained until we were back in the comfort of our cars at the Garden. Once off the dome of rock, a 3 foot deep spine of snow accompanied us to the Haystack trail intersection just past where we began the bushwhack at 8:30 a.m. The time stood at 7 p.m. Snow and ice would actually hasten the descent to Slant Rock wheres we took a much needed break and found a couple camping and eating. They shared some delicious pasta with us, renewing our vitality for the final push. Nearby, a few feet behind them, a three-toed woodpecker scampered about. It had no fear of my camera as I approached within 4 feet and took a series of pics.

The push to JBL was a march under a fading sun, each step one toward a more extended break we intended to take. A crew was building some additional steps on the porch. My friend Peggy (MacKellar) was among them. Thank you for the food and drink! After a 20 minute break and conversation we trudged slowly out over the remaining 3.5 miles to arrive at our cars at 11:00 p.m. What a day out with a great hiker who’s not afraid to dive headfirst into anything!
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Old 05-13-2012, 07:23 PM   #3
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Looks pretty cool, your ascent on Marcy east face. Very impressive outing, we will have to go take another look at this East face.

Congrat to both of you.
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Old 05-13-2012, 08:33 PM   #4
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Well, I've now discovered that one of the many pleasures of hiking with Kevin is that you can let him write an impeccable, poetic trip report and simply hit the 'Thanks' button and be off the hook... Brilliant summary of a day that was extremely difficult to summarize with the written word!! It will be tough to choose a new avatar photo from the full set. I think that I was so dehydrated by the time we hit Skylight summit that my blood simply stopped clotting, hence the bloody pants picture.

I'll throw in my perspective on the adventure when I get a chance tomorrow. What an outstanding route. I should've know what was in store when we started talking about East Skylight a few months ago.

Thanks for the much needed epic Kevin! .... and on the plus side, no one had to be urinated on!!
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Old 05-13-2012, 10:20 PM   #5
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Well, I've now discovered that one of the many pleasures of hiking with Kevin is that you can let him write an impeccable, poetic trip report and simply hit the 'Thanks' button and be off the hook...
Isnt that a great invention ! This Thanks Button

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Thanks for the much needed epic Kevin! .... and on the plus side, no one had to be urinated on!!
And has FZ once said in winter Dont eat the Yellow snow.
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Old 05-14-2012, 05:46 AM   #6
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Congratulations on another highly imaginative route.

Was the cripplebush as bad as on Gothics?

You're getting your pack weight down, only 10 pounds to go!
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Old 05-14-2012, 07:55 AM   #7
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Congratulations on another highly imaginative route.

Was the cripplebush as bad as on Gothics?

You're getting your pack weight down, only 10 pounds to go!
Thank you, kind Sir. Looks like you and NP had a great day too. I'll be watching for your report.

Pack weight...Add a pound for the banana bread and 5 lbs for water

Everything was as bad as Gothics, yes, just not quite as wet for as long. You know, if we'd have cut over to the col that NP and I used to got down this past winter, it would have been a near open bushwhack...oye.
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:00 AM   #8
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Thank the Lord almighty I missed this one....
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:09 AM   #9
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Thank the Lord almighty I missed this one....
Your shirt would have looked far worse than in your avatar! There'd have been 'notrace' of it
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:31 PM   #10
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nice

long way to get Sky. Are you now working on longest approach 46 ?
I've been up on ridge overlooking your so called "slide" looks much more slide like in the winter with 10 ft. of snow. The real and only slide for Sky is the slide up to the "spire" the knob to the south west of summit. You must of seen it up close when you did the redfield slide a few years ago.
I sat on top of the spire but have not climbed the slide.
MG
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:35 PM   #11
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long way to get Sky. Are you now working on longest approach 46 ?
I've been up on ridge overlooking your so called "slide" looks much more slide like in the winter with 10 ft. of snow. The real and only slide for Sky is the slide up to the "spire" the knob to the south west of summit. You must of seen it up close when you did the redfield slide a few years ago.
I sat on top of the spire but have not climbed the slide.
MG
Howdy!
Look to the south and adjacent to the main drainage. We climbed an actual slide (600 map feet) of rubble with a little bit of open anorthosite. Granted, it's hardly glorious, but it's a slide. It shows up better on the DEC images.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:51 PM   #12
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long way to get Sky. Are you now working on longest approach 46 ?
Hmmmmm....you just might be on to something.

The 46-LBA (LBA=longest bushwhack approach). I think I already have Gray and maybe even Whiteface.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:06 PM   #13
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Hmmmmm....you just might be on to something.

The 46-LBA (LBA=longest bushwhack approach). I think I already have Gray and maybe even Whiteface.
...and pyramid.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:09 PM   #14
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...and pyramid.

I defy anyone to top that one!

Btw, I think you and I nailed Gothics.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:16 PM   #15
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long way to get Sky. Are you now working on longest approach 46 ?
I've been up on ridge overlooking your so called "slide" looks much more slide like in the winter with 10 ft. of snow. The real and only slide for Sky is the slide up to the "spire" the knob to the south west of summit. You must of seen it up close when you did the redfield slide a few years ago.
I sat on top of the spire but have not climbed the slide.
MG
A few of these pics might shed some light on it. I hit Pinnacle and Lookout Rock a few weeks ago when we were initially discussing going in from the Marcy Brook tributary.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/7715329...7629478046802/

The snow obviously adds some definition, but they're definitely rubbly slides. The pics are pretty low res unfortunately but you can kinda get the idea of what we were imagining it might be like.....
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Old 05-15-2012, 10:28 PM   #16
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slide goggles

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Howdy!
Look to the south and adjacent to the main drainage. We climbed an actual slide (600 map feet) of rubble with a little bit of open anorthosite. Granted, it's hardly glorious, but it's a slide. It shows up better on the DEC images.
your still wearing slide goggles still a great day out there. Have you seen the "real" slide up the spire ?
MG
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Old 05-15-2012, 10:38 PM   #17
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your still wearing slide goggles still a great day out there. Have you seen the "real" slide up the spire ?
MG
It was awesome and so relaxing. Haven't been up spire yet, but i know where it is. This was low on my priority list but Krummholz and I were talking about it and I got psyched for the bushwhack. I went up this side to check out the bowl/ledges/etc. We thought it would be more dramatic than it was. Slide was coincidental and about what i expected...rubble, 15-20' wide and 600' feet long (by google earth). It reminded me of a smaller version of twin slide's southern trib, though more narrow.
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Old 05-16-2012, 08:51 AM   #18
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It was awesome and so relaxing. Haven't been up spire yet, but i know where it is. This was low on my priority list but Krummholz and I were talking about it and I got psyched for the bushwhack. I went up this side to check out the bowl/ledges/etc. We thought it would be more dramatic than it was. Slide was coincidental and about what i expected...rubble, 15-20' wide and 600' feet long (by google earth). It reminded me of a smaller version of twin slide's southern trib, though more narrow.
I agree. The slide itself wasn't really part of the goal, it was more a matter of "This looks like an interesting route that doesn't seem to get much exploration. Why not check it out." The first two stages (stream and rubble slide) were actually quite pleasant with some incredible, unique perspectives on the mtns to the east, but I have to admit the upper bowl was like being beaten by soccer hooligans with belt sanders and pipes.
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:55 AM   #19
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What an adventure! Congratulations to you both and many thanks for the TR and photos. 20+ miles and over 6500' ascent; you guys are hardcore.

I'm very intrigued by your descent into Panther Gorge. This is a little dream of mine that I hope to realize some day. That grassy stretch below the slider is prettier than I ever imagined. Can you elaborate a little more about the bushwhack off the main trail and down along the west side of the Gorge? Just follow the path of least resistance (except for cliffs) or is there a specific route you recommend?
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Old 05-16-2012, 12:14 PM   #20
mudrat
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I am a 46er I cross post at ADKForum
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
Can you elaborate a little more about the bushwhack off the main trail and down along the west side of the Gorge? Just follow the path of least resistance (except for cliffs) or is there a specific route you recommend?
Thanks.
Some prior accounts/recommendations talked of staying away from the drainage. It definitely tightens upon approach to it, at least at the top. This is completely normal for many drainage streams. I think staying out of that was also in reference to finding an ice route in the cliffs.

The first 10 minutes was quite tight. There was never any specific route...not enough traffic, but there were some openings in the trees that were more attractive than others. We navigated through them on a sw heading (more or less). We then decided to explore below the first cliffs on the right (west) which had some open ground beneath. Beyond that, we used line of sight nav toward Grand Central base and just wound our way downward through the most convenient openings until intersecting the drainage from Grand C. I recognized that right away from my last time in the area.
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