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Nippletop Slide Help

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  • Nippletop Slide Help

    If there is anyone who has some information pertaining to the location of the Nippletop slide, I would appreciate hearing about it. Why? I missed it! Yup, that's right.....I was all over the main drainage from Elk Pass, but I never found the slide.

    Some details may help solve the mystery or at least help you decide if I was close or couldn't hit the broad side of a barn!

    Friday, 8/26/05 myself and two climbing friends hiked into Elk Pass before turning off trail with the main drainage and descending south (toward Elk Lake). Our goal was the Nippletop Slide. We were encourage to give this one a try after completing ascents via the 1990 Colden slide, Bennies Brook slide, et. al. As a 46er (#4111) with over 30 years of hiking and bushwhacking experience (in the days when Street, Nye, Tabletop and others were true exercises in map, compass and old fashioned, bloody bushwhacking), I felt "qualified" to tackle this adventure.

    Somewhere we read (McMartin?) the approximate distance to the slide from the trailed route was .5 mile with about a 400' descent. We struggled through very thick cover (as thick as I have ever experienced) with a myriad of paths (like the old Nye days), but remained true to suggestions of staying low with the drainage. Thinking that the slide stretched all the way to the edge of the main drainage from the pond at Elk Pass, we continued to descend over 60 minutes down the drainage.

    I honestly thought that 30-40 minutes tops would do it for a .5-mile bushwhack but I extended the time because travel was so difficult and slow.

    We did come across an open rock area about 10 minutes after leaving the Elk Pass Trail, but we were still in the plateau area of the bog and hadn't even reached the beaver dam or started to descend the drainage. We continued on for a total of 1 hour and 12 minutes before deciding to return to Elk Pass. We had even passed the massive vertical cliffs on the Colvin side of the brook that clearly show on the topographical map. The slide is also located further down the drainage than these cliffs and we were well beyond that point when we decided to turn around. It took 1.5 hours to return to the the trail in Elk Pass. We even tried to ascend the side of the mountain further from the brook on the way back in hopes that we would eventually cut across the slide if (by chance) it didn't go all the way to the brook.

    After spending 2.5 hours on the bushwhack and way too much energy, we decided to forgo Nippletop and return over Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head. Great views, but small consolation for the day's real goal. there anyone out there who might offer some experienced guidance on how to locate this elusive slide? Where did we go wrong? Were we down far enough in the drainage? We literally had the brook in sight the entire time and could not find the start of the slide. Does the slide actually come all the way down to the brook? We even rock hopped in the brook because it was easier to be in the brook than in the maze of balsams. I'm thinking that we still had farther to go and should have continued to descend the brook, but we were well past the sheer cliff wall mentioned above.

    Can anyone shed any light on this before I return and hopefully not make the same mistake twice? Thanks in advance for any guidance you can offer.

    Pete Hogan

  • #2

    I got your e-mail but will reply here. I haven't been to this slide since the 1996 hike with Barb Blum and others, and Neil will likely respond as he climbed the slide earlier this summer. I'm guessing you didn't go quite far enough down the drainage to reach the slide. The slide does go all the way down to the bottom of the valley, so if you stay with the stream, it can't be missed. It's fairly wide at the bottom, at least 50 feet. My notes on my first time here (1990) say an easy half hour bushwhack down from Elk Pass to the slide. It took a little longer in 1996 and seemed thicker then. Of course with Floyd in 1999 it is likely much thicker now and may take even longer to reach the slide. I think it's about a 500-foot drop from Elk Pass to the slide, but Neil can probably verify that with his GPS readings. It is a great slide and it's too bad you missed it. Go back and go a little farther and you will find it.


    • #3


      I told Pete pretty much the opposite. We did part of NT slide \ on September 10th. If he walked as long as he says he did he surely would have been way pass the base.

      My experience was that the start of the slide was obvious -- sort of. I was the 3rd down the stream in a group of 5. If I had been the first I might have passed it by. The bottom of the slide is a bit overgrown with stuff that likes light and likes open spaces. The first guy down noted that it was lighter here than elsewhere and opined that we were at the base of the slide. I was not convinced until I pushed thru the new growth and got out on the slide.

      You are definitely right that it is about 50 ft wide there and that this span is what lets the light in. On a dark and cloudy day the difference between it and the dark and narrow parts of the stream bed would not be as notable.

      See my post about NT in the trip reports part of VFTT.



      • #4
        Here's my .02:

        For Nip we were still in the bush close to the stream and we could tell we were at the slide due to the break we could perceive in the forest just ahead and above us on our left. What you see is the forest on the opposite side of the slide. When approaching a slide from its side or obliquely I keep an eye out for this feature. Sometimes you denote the break before you see the slide (Kilburn, Nip) sometimes you don't (Wright, Bottle : approaching Bottle the way we did the new growth close to the slide obscured any views)

        One thing for sure, having a gps is an immense aid and time saver. Alltho' we knew we were at Nippletop's base before the gps said so (it squawks when you arrive at a wp) I had been watching us get close so was alert. As for Bottle I think we would have come out somewhere on the slide but with the "eye in the sky" we came out right smack at the bottom of it.
        If you need a gps for the Colden 1990 Slide, well....