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Free Soul on Big Slide

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  • Free Soul on Big Slide

    Guide Orson S. Phelps wrote detailed accounts related to various topics on the Adirondack Mountains. This included weather conditions and slides. The following is a quote from The Rivers and Brooks of the Adirondacks, part of the Orson Schofield Phelps Collection at the Adirondack Research Library of Union College. The text relates to the face of Big Slide Mountain, the slide's creation, in fact. I’ve left his words exactly as he wrote them.

    The big slides on the north side of Johns Brook this came down in 1830 and is the most extensive slide known. It started from Slide Mt was what gave the Mt its name. It apparently carried the greatest mass of debris to the main valley of Johns Brook of any slide that ever moved. It swept everything in its way for 3 miles 20 or 30 rods wide and when it came to the main brook it passed over it and piled up its mass of debris over acres from 20 to 40 ft high that was left there in a mass to decay.
    Stepping back a few months...I never dreamed of climbing this until ranger Scott van Laer asked me to lead him up a route. We turned the thought into a reality during June of 2018. The 5.9 YDS rated climb called Freudian Slip seemed like the most reasonable route even if it was a bit stiffer than he originally wanted. A rescue call came in as we were preparing to rappel from its top. I had time to take several photographs of the large ledge (overlap) that cuts down the face.

    The June trip fanned the flames of curiosity and drew me back with Adam Crofoot and Alan Wechsler on September 15, 2018. I had a new line in mind and hoped to break through the overlap to the top of the face. Things don’t always go as planned, but that is part of the process. The result of our trip yielded a new route, but something different than I originally envisioned.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	fQ0Jqz70JJq67XxwU0CsHoIfR6W5oLEjDKYvrRp3AK1Ns1yy5VZHwqkOMXIk13lJx618matQCpHDduaq6AKBycz58-kTQ0OGkQanIlGUcryvQMG3qE1pFBxgWz34RcOJ9KJ_bTQ5ciDsY31iONxcDpOQ8Oua9W5K4-IV5eT67PCVXGU5lQPNP6XsyYZCobz_abVZ0xr8e7KhQ9XHDBigs2t33sty6vMYiXNQjY2nlqw2tRW-CE1AqjxJqr4y1bd Views:	1 Size:	260.8 KB ID:	491492
    ON THE FLAKE, AND 20' ABOVE IT WITH ADAM

    We left the Garden Trailhead at 5:15 a.m. and found ourselves hiking in humid conditions. Vapors were still clinging to the summit at 8:30 when we arrived at the slide’s base. The stone was dry, but I had little desire to climb on unknown terrain in a hanging cloud. I wanted to be able to see every detail—near and far. We relaxed and talked for around an hour before racking up.

    While we waited, I studied the face and talked with Adam about the features. It looked similar to Freudian Slip—60+ degrees with a few small features for hands and feet. A left rising overlap/corner high above was the dominant feature of the pitch, an area where there was ample protection. I knew the first “bit” would be somewhat runout; something I’m comfortable with though I didn’t imagine the reality of the situation from the base. This line was my “bright idea,” so I volunteered to lead the first of what I hoped would be three pitches.

    The line started roughly 50’ left of Freudian Slip and about 10’ to the right of Mustard Sandwich at a large flake. With a deep inaudible sigh (I think), I started up the flake and placed a solid piece to protect Adam who was on belay. If I fell, he’d be protected. The knobs and small edges looked easy enough to connect from below. Make no mistake, the features were small so climbing was a delicate dance, but I felt confident. Twenty or thirty feet above the cam, I found myself at the point of no return. I couldn’t safely down-climb. Somewhere in this area, I placed a micro-cam behind a fragile overlap; a pointless exercise as falling would have torn the flake off. Adam later described the protection as “pure garbage.”

    I hunted for an ideal set of edges directly to the bottom of the corner. I marked a few divots and bumps with chalk and tried a couple of moves to the left, but the only “safe” line seemed to trend right—away from the corner. Adam wondered where I was going as did I for a few moments, but I noticed larger knobs of feldspar up high near the right side of the block/corner. I simply needed to be patient, breath, and maintain a level head while crimping my way up to them.

    Time slowed and the lead seemed to take forever, but Adam later said it went fairly quickly. I felt only calm focus as I reached the relative security of the larger knobs. I was about 8’ right of the corner…and 65’ above my last piece of protection on 5.9 YDS slab. The risk/reward ratio was far higher than anything I’ve attempted in the past…and higher than I’ll allow in the future. I was comfortable and “in my element,” but there was no margin for error, and a quick dizzy spell or loose flake would have consequences.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	O5oGipLcS14Oyrwi9BvWYm-7PK6r-WsJz0V2XkdHxfu0yfNmZCYzLJK0_ItiPKPmPrUnkvbRvi2yYroIBHq-0O9sHEQckNyV3mb6rsKRGjIccBvkszitd5FT8WlMkdhmbqHEUM4OvHd0s8Twgz1044B3SmqGn8PSYI3fr2-8Jg_Mk_H6OndvpHWNZ7tDsSxGFtfCaE5uJfC2qzhqKCP9TUtpXw6weKYxhhVaRM_7P1N_G5h14uS95SNt__MT48x Views:	1 Size:	325.0 KB ID:	491493
    DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES OF THE CRIMPING ON APPROACH TO THE CORNER. KEVIN ON LEAD (TOP PHOTO).

    I carefully traversed the slab to the bottom of a small roof/overlap. I then traversed left by underclinging and placed protection. The feature was a couple of feet thick, 10’ high and wide. How it was attached to the face is unknown. Was it in place strictly by its weight or attached by an area that I couldn’t see? A small tree grew on its top. Above was right rising arch with a hand-crack underneath. I reveled in the feeling of being able to protect the route easily. The slab was somewhat dirty, but there were enough edges for feet where it wasn’t annoying (at least to me). One hundred and thirty feet higher, I set up an anchor at an obvious roof.

    Adam climbed next. His movements were fluid as he “connected the dots” and reached my position. “Nice lead,” he said. I sighed and said, “Remind me that that is my limit on x-rated slab.” Alan followed in the third position.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	gF7XdTB7XUlWzM6BhvuHXs5J0rlCqto6LbKGvQhP2p5o_BxmzqGVb9oNOpuCW_C8OsrW5FJJV2k_Y3QJgKDMD747qTGQD4C3CpH_fvE2wZNRNeCQ8xkOr207IXe-Y1YN3zMV3Z18els4h0rojPhIizuyOOSPlwTVDCd_w_BPBQMTqVBnH-Jn48q-zvikiO_yHvld4TNABCWuTT_fRw029bAzlMd76D5F35t1rTQbZ46OhUHCbYwpoV8NMCDP4Oz Views:	1 Size:	219.7 KB ID:	491496

    ADAM (ABOVE), ALAN (BELOW)

    Click image for larger version  Name:	CAo-lUGqtsEwYLm2aRAnG0e2M5_0heonuAoBgO3UiBml7rY-QgndD_unT16TLMiJh2rDiY2zTlOU6Mc5D3i3OibZyxLhHK4u0JUPgqpO0h7e6vC7MHrK5hyBz7u6x__jvebJFr1kfPcibx1IMBehhKibUHq6P69fMso0UxnnqLadPCIXcsU8u_jmcGOzYNOkSfZevDvOVhRTgats9bqbpyaVhc_jkgP1kQxq8pVflhN7_Mp8PYPB-WQbxdOpabz Views:	1 Size:	237.7 KB ID:	491494

    I’ll take a break here and note that without fixed protection, first 70' is not a safe lead. If you slip for any reason, you fall to the ground. It is a lovely climb, however, so an alternative strategy is to climb Mustard Sandwich to the roof and set up a top rope. Include a couple of directionals near the midpoint of the rising arch.

    Pitch two would lead over the roof if it was viable. I offered the lead to Adam noting that I needed to get my head back on straight. He traversed right and intersected the Mustard Sandwich route. The best photos of the day were thanks to Alan. Adam assumed a position on the overlap in search of a good line. The options included following 20-30’ of Mustard Sandwich and then continuing on new terrain to a crack in the overlap or taking the line up over the roof which would involve cleaner, but unprotected rock with a potential fall on the anchor. The continuation of Mustard looked horrendously overgrown. We ended the route, Free Soul (5.9 X) after 130’ at the roof and rappelled.

    Our day was not over, however. Alan wanted to lead Freudian Slip. I was finished leading and looked forward to following the route again. Thus he led the 200’ line with Adam and I in tow on separate ropes. The clouds had long since lifted, so we enjoyed stellar views of the Great Ranged and relaxed.Alan quipped, “So why the 5:00 a.m. start?” I snickered, and Adam retorted, “To beat the crowds.” I’ll concede that we didn’t need to start quite as early, but time allows options. We took advantage of the extra time and strolled up to the summit (where dozens of midges mauled me) before exiting over the Brothers. A quick rain shower cooled us as we approached the Garden and ended the day with plenty of daylight to spare.

    THE CORNER SYSTEM OF MUSTARD SANDWICH
    Click image for larger version  Name:	RY9kDWTKIpjFiK7GBK-pQMyVCMGUHzkNOF8hiKhVp8BkcmlWxS94dCshzOEom2LuCplI9d4-r-JZHBDCSWZTU6yBdz-OQDkUp5WHUaPlp_Sw9Bce9uF_9yBGW20F0RDvdVzpQhfIRP3zxAL0uNbwkGWXxXktWWRuXYUGdF0fGau1icVdRxLYSDv3iDiyIB6jQYbLCPUFgay3nbPepzP2Yf1wMPBpL7WDAWU-ncYxI1lOmk0gTuIHIiOeMNYdz3a Views:	1 Size:	173.7 KB ID:	491495
    ADAM SCOUTING.
    Last edited by mudrat; 10-05-2018, 08:55 PM.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

    www.adirondackmountaineering.com

  • #2
    Interesting description OM Phelps gave us:

    "It apparently carried the greatest mass of debris to the main valley of Johns Brook of any slide that ever moved. It swept everything in its way for 3 miles 20 or 30 rods wide and when it came to the main brook it passed over it and piled up its mass of debris over acres from 20 to 40 ft high that was left there in a mass to decay."

    I would think that there would be a slide track leftover. Any geologists care to comment?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by dundee View Post
      Interesting description OM Phelps gave us:

      "It apparently carried the greatest mass of debris to the main valley of Johns Brook of any slide that ever moved. It swept everything in its way for 3 miles 20 or 30 rods wide and when it came to the main brook it passed over it and piled up its mass of debris over acres from 20 to 40 ft high that was left there in a mass to decay."

      I would think that there would be a slide track leftover. Any geologists care to comment?
      It is interesting. He described many of the 1830 slides (such as Cascade [along the same track as the 2011 slide]) and many from the 1856 era as well.

      You can make out a bit of a path here: https://zoom.earth/#44.176276,-73.872194,16z,sat . You just need to look for the different shading of the canopy.This happened 188 years ago so there's been enough time for the forest to retake the area. The runout's pretty obvious at it's base (the glade) as well. Most of the debris at the chokepoints would have settled and rotted by now as well. I can't find the text, but people in either North Elba or Placid recalled hearing this. Another really interesting example of an ancient slide that was overgrown, then re-slid is the Lobster Claw b/t Dix and Hough. Take the imagery from before 2013 and you can see the forest is different along an old track. The 2013 slide followed a similar track.It's all very interesting.
      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

      www.adirondackmountaineering.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes, I see it. Apparently it didn't scour the forest away down to bedrock and left something for the trees to grow back on.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the report.

          FYI, I looked up the definition of a distance unit of a rod and it is 16-1/2 feet (5.5 yards).

          What's the width of Bennies Brook Slide? Guessing 50 yards at it's widest?

          Anyway it seems the description of it as new is of the same scale as the Irene Slides. Maybe it was dirty slide and this led to it being grown over now.

          Don
          Last edited by Hear the Footsteps; 10-08-2018, 01:21 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            This is a very interesting conversation. Bennies Root Canal is a little over 70 yards wide at the confluence with the 2 older tributaries.

            If you remember, Basin's NE Shoulder Slide debris razed the area at the head of the brook--to where it met the runout from Basin's E face. It removed the forest and left a huge amount of soil, boulders, and trees in 2011. Take a look at one of the more recent photos of the runout (https://zoom.earth/#44.119601,-73.874307,17z,sat )--pretty green in just 7 years. It's amazing how fast grasses and pioneer trees take over. Even if it's scoured to bedrock, algae and moss creep in from the edges, then grasses get a foothold, etc. Granted that would take alot longer than places where soil is leftover.

            Gothics W Face is another interesting example thought a bit different than runouts overgrowing. The steep (about 50-60) face had several long white scars in the early 1900's (http://digitalcollections.archives.n...ediumlarge.jpg), now they are difficult to distinguish. Even on that tpe of slope they regrow quickly (in geologic terms, anyway).

            Along the same note, most of the Great ADK Faces slid long ago. The areas below Gothics E (ca. 1856), Gothics N (had some activity in the 90's), Pyramid, Gothics S, Giant E are mostly green now in the streambeds. Slides form, repopulate with vegetation, slide again and again in the same location over the centuries.

            Anyway, I find the process fascinating and wish I had several lifetimes to observe the cycle.
            May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

            www.adirondackmountaineering.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Yeah right, thinking about it more it's true about slides being rejuvenated. Some I can think of quick.
              I have some pictures from last year Basin NE shoulder with trees starting to pop up.
              And this summer we climbed the new Beckhorn Slide again. The low angle middle section that was muddy is being taken over by Aspen.
              And another not a slide, the Burn on Noonmark Shoulder is now heavily populated with new Aspen. The fresh Burn was bare and wide open.
              And north of one of the Beaver Brook slides above the trail there is a parallel mossy track that struck me as being an ancient slide.
              And the really low angle sections below the Saddleback slides is getting filled in with grass and moss probably small trees too.

              Yet isn't the Lake Placid slide as old? and it is still pretty clean.

              Don

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hear the Footsteps View Post
                Yeah right, thinking about it more it's true about slides being rejuvenated. Some I can think of quick.
                I have some pictures from last year Basin NE shoulder with trees starting to pop up.
                And this summer we climbed the new Beckhorn Slide again. The low angle middle section that was muddy is being taken over by Aspen.
                And another not a slide, the Burn on Noonmark Shoulder is now heavily populated with new Aspen. The fresh Burn was bare and wide open.
                And north of one of the Beaver Brook slides above the trail there is a parallel mossy track that struck me as being an ancient slide.
                And the really low angle sections below the Saddleback slides is getting filled in with grass and moss probably small trees too.

                Yet isn't the Lake Placid slide as old? and it is still pretty clean.

                Don
                Really good examples! I went through Noonmark's burn for the first time in about a decade...man the aspen are tall!
                The oldest reference I have of Lake Placid Slide sliding is 1808. I don't have a good answer to that except that there's always a lot of water running on it? Most are obviously wet to some degree or they wouldn't have slid. Winter finds Lake Placid Slide with huge ice as well compared to some of the others. That baby is also the most slippery slide (in sneakers/boots) compared to other slides...right up there with Allen's dreaded red algae Interesting...
                May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

                www.adirondackmountaineering.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Just remembered something today as a passing point of interest. it may have NOTHING to do with the slide runout on Big Slide, but I remember talking to Jim
                  Goodwin once and he told me that when he was a kid they had logged all the way up to the bottom of the slide on BS. That *MIGHT* change the species mix and the color of the area taken via satellite. I don't know specifically where they logged, I only know it was "up to" the bottom of the cliff.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yeah, the entire area was logged heavily by various lumber companies. I think And Gladly Guide has some of the lumbering information in there...not necessarily specific to Big Slide, but the Johns Brook Valley.
                    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

                    www.adirondackmountaineering.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ​​​​
                      Originally posted by mudrat View Post

                      It is interesting. He described many of the 1830 slides (such as Cascade [along the same track as the 2011 slide]) and many from the 1856 era as well.

                      You can make out a bit of a path here: https://zoom.earth/#44.176276,-73.872194,16z,sat . You just need to look for the different shading of the canopy.This happened 188 years ago so there's been enough time for the forest to retake the area. The runout's pretty obvious at it's base (the glade) as well.
                      Fantastic trip report & pictures!

                      The link that you provided shows the area where the "old slide" on the Slide-Brook trail is. To dundee and anyone that hasn't taken the Slide Brook trail down: it's a very pretty trail in it's own right compared to the glorious Brothers. The "old slide" is quite neat - it's angle is so gentle that my buddy remarked "I'd take a selfie but most of my friends would just think I'm in a parking lot."



                      Bennies Root Canal is a little over 70 yards wide at the confluence with the 2 older tributaries.
                      This estimate makes me happy. A few people have asked me how wide it was. I replied,

                      "About the size of a football field." (Goal line to goal line).

                      They're usually surprised when I say that.

                      Now knowing that it's over 70 yards makes me feel like my estimate was in the "stadium."


                      ​​​

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Learning The Trails View Post
                        ​​​​

                        Fantastic trip report & pictures!

                        Thanks!

                        Good football pun on Bennies . It's pretty easy to guestimate the width using Google Earth. Just draw a length line from one side to another, but make sure it's to/from the same elevation. Those storms create quite the swath of bear stone.
                        May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

                        www.adirondackmountaineering.com

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