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Colden's Western Gully Slide: 5/19/12

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  • Colden's Western Gully Slide: 5/19/12




    8:15 a.m. found Nangaparbat, Greg Karl and friend/neighbor Matt at the South Meadows trailhead. We had the trail to ourselves for the duration. An eclectic mix of conversations (Frank Zappa, origins of the universe, riots in Canada, Asimov and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) likely kept even the wildlife far away. It also erased any memory of the trail. Before I knew it, whether by my own energy or an unexplained wormhole, we suddenly arrived at Marcy Dam.

    Another bump in time and feverish 1 minute bushwhack later, we were sitting at the base of the western gully slide in Avalanche Pass. Ill let the following picture tell the story, but it was a great climb with much diversity. Various route choices, some easy and some more challenging kept the ascent interesting. Dramatic chock stones, fractures and open slab was nearly always nearby. The most challenging portion came at about 3300 around a protrusion from the north side. Some of us scaled it with finger/toe holds while Greg scaled it with the use of some webbing and a hip belay. It wasnt necessary, but made the pitch more comfortable for him.

    The long slab climb at the top was the most exposed area the climb but the rough face and fractures made it comfortable underfoot. The headwall can be seen from the first pitches and is the obvious exit. I thought there was perhaps a bit more slab to the left and slightly higher in the drainage. Curiosity got the better of me and I traversed around a rounded ledge and climbed an 8 foot crack of mixed stone, sand and mud. NP and Matt followed as I took my initial steps on to the slab. A few steps up the steep face, I found myself committed to a treacherous climb up dirty slab. I couldnt back down without losing traction and slipping over the wall. I couldnt smear well to ascend so my fingertips and palms bore the majority of my weightI still bear a few small cuts to prove it. After warning NP and Matt back to the other exit, I spent another 10 minutes climbing/traversing the 30 segment inch by inch. There was slab of lesser pitch mere feet to my left 2/3 of the way up, but all I could do was hold myself in place. I finally felt my shoe catch a miniature hold in the face and worked over to the safe zone and into the cripplebrush. I only described this section to warn against climbing it until Mother Nature cleans the sand, mud and 1/8 crumbs of sharp anorthosite from its surface.

    A quick climb up a small ledge and through the woods led to the top of the ridge and some much needed lunch. Once atop the ridge to Coldens false summit, the bushwhack went smoothly. We had moderately open terrain for about 10 minutes of hiking and more stunted growth once I climbed a small wall to gain elevation rather than side-slope on the eastern side. It gave me a nice view of the second slide we were planning to descend. NP, Greg and Matt continued below to the eastI heard them tromping about some distance away. We called on regular intervals to maintain voice contact.
    Twenty five minutes after our lunch, I sat on the false summit looking at the Irene slide into the trap dike on Coldens true summit. A short while later, I heard the others nearing the edge of the cripplebrush. Wed started around 8:15 a.m. and were now about 4 hours into the trek. 15 minutes was spent sitting and chatting before descending along the path to our next ill-fated mission.

    A Nice Bushwhack
    Id prepared for an on-contour bushwhack to the headwall from the eastern side of the ridge without bothering to assess which drainage the slide on the northern face of Coldens NNE ridge fell along. Greg suggested we follow the ridge to the false summit and had a map along to aid the quest thereafter. We dropped off the trail to Lake Arnold along a strong drainage after a prominent bump in the trail at around 4200 (correct me if Im wrong here, Greg). All seemed fine until we passed the height where the headwall should have begun. I didnt consider that we might be too far east until it was too late.

    After continuing to descend we fanned out, me to the east, Greg to the west and Matt/NP near the center; each a couple hundred feet apart. 45 minutes later and several hundred feet lower we re-integrated our group and trekked east. I climbed a steep ridge and beheld our target; several hundred feet higher and far to the westoops. Thankfully, the forest had not been difficult to bushwhack. The trees were never very dense and blowdown was minimal. I dont think any of us felt crushed by the failure since the slide was really only as a curiosity and convenient off-trail route of descent.

    Its drainage was perhaps 20 across and loaded with uprooted trees and mud where we intersected its path (about 3600). The water coursed down the center in small pools and nice cascades. Quite warm from exertion and the heat, I stepped into a deep pool of refreshing water immediately. The descent was actually very enjoyable on the various small runs of slab, intermittent gorges and more than one cascade. About an hour later we diverged from the drainage and intersected the trail once again. 5:15 p.m. found us back at the cars with an end to another exciting ADK day.
    Last edited by mudrat; 11-28-2020, 11:36 AM.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

  • #2
    Pics (most mine, a few of Matt's one by NP):

    Here are my impressions (and confessions, since Kevin let me off the hook on a few points):

    I had already climbed it right after Irene created it, but when Kevin told me he was climbing the spectacular Gully Slide on Colden, I had to see it again, especially since the return route was another slide I had yet to explore.

    The gully is a frozen cataclysm. Blades of igneous slab careen downward from the south, the direction of Colden’s false summit, cutting sharply into the cliffs lining the north wall; a collision of colossal masses. The sun-baked blades are cooled by a brook tumbling at and under the base of the cliffs. Ascending in this steep and narrow defile, the world is off-kilter, muscles perpetually set against a crazy double fall-line. At any glance the view is stop-action chaos. Jumbled piles of trees hang in mid-air, snagged on chockstones on their way down the chimney to Avalanche Pass. Gashes in the anorthosite are crusted with pink and orange crystals. From the airy upper slabs, the cliffs of Avalanche Mountain loom across the nave of a glacial cathedral. If this were Zion National Park, where we are standing would probably be called the Choir Loft. This climb is a heady mix of adventure and great natural beauty.

    On the adventure side: I had a scary moment crossing some steep slab. I was splitting the difference of the double fall line and jumping from one foothold to another across the slope, when I miscalculated the friction I could get from a muddy divett. I found myself scrambling to hold onto a lip over what would have been a steep and likely injurious slide into the base of the cliffs some thirty feet below. Scrambling for friction against the coarse rock, I left a considerable tissue sample from my right forearm.

    From Kevin's report, one would think he was somehow responsible for missing the top of the return slide. This isn't so. In planning for the return, I didn’t have post-Irene satellite imagery to work from, so I plotted where I thought the descending slide was using a low-contrast winter photo from the summit of Phelps. I was off by one drainage. Using Kevin's original plan, that is, cross-sloping from the ridge without a stop on the false summit, hitting it would have been a sure bet wherever it might lie. I wanted to get the views from the false summit, however, especially since Matt hadn’t been there before, so we ended up using my game plan for the descent. After following the trail down toward Lake Arnold to 4,200 feet, we whacked due N, executing my plan perfectly, and thus missing the top of the slide. Kevin described the subsequent search for it, but what he left out was that on my foray to the left, I ended up staring into it; but because what I saw was so underwhelming compared to what the winter view from Phelps had led me to expect, I didn’t even recognize it as a slide track. So I guess I missed it twice!

    The descent down the brook bed (it wasn't really a slide at that point) was a scrambler's delight, with a new challenge every minute. There was a lot of open rock that had been scoured clean by Irene, but she had left a great deal of clutter in the narrow chute as well. There was one beautiful water fall along the way.

    Anyway, thanks Kevin, Matt and NP for a great day out and good conversation.
    Last edited by Gregory Karl; 05-24-2012, 09:52 AM.


    • #3
      In all honesty, I have found this outing, extremely interesting, starting with the eclectic mix of conversations with my partners of the day, to intricacy of the gully, btw, it always look easier on pics.....

      The gully was sometimes tricky at best and provide a unique view of Wright and later up of Avalanche mountain cliffs.

      I recall especially the view from the gully in its narrowest section, looking up was, very special (look at pic starting from third arrow from the bottom)

      We made good progress and the finish in the woods of Colden provide a fitting end to a great day.

      Would like to thanks all my partners on that outing for the good memories , this day will left in my mind.
      8000m 0/14


      • #4
        Well done, Gentlemen !!


        • #5
          Looks like a great trip guys. The photos give a nice impression of the character of that gulley. It's definitely on my wish list now!

          I couldn't tell from the photos, did you wear sticky shoes, boots, hybrids, sneakers?

          Looking forward to checking it out, preferably after a nice dry spell. Thanks for the great report.


          • #6
            Originally posted by krummholz View Post
            Looks like a great trip guys. The photos give a nice impression of the character of that gulley. It's definitely on my wish list now!

            I couldn't tell from the photos, did you wear sticky shoes, boots, hybrids, sneakers?

            Looking forward to checking it out, preferably after a nice dry spell. Thanks for the great report.
            Thanks. NP and I had rock climbing shoes, greg had approach shoes and i forget what Matt was wearing. I simply wear rock shoes on most open rock now since they're so comfortable.
            May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.