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Partaking in the Verglas-y Botte, 11/07/2020

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  • Partaking in the Verglas-y Botte, 11/07/2020

    I have been bolstering my slide-climbing resume through the last few years, and continued that this summer on a bunch of great hikes with huge thanks to Dennis for his terrific specific help (Im sure next summer will be different and you will finally be able to come play again, and as you haven't hit the bottle yet yourself, I'm hoping this report will be of assistance to you and others in some way). I had narrowed down my remaining wish-list for this year if the weather had cooperated, and luckily with the relatively amazing forecast for this last weekend I pulled the trigger on the Bottle Slide after regularly checking the webcams and melt reports and mountain point forecast throughout the week prior, feeling confident I would see plenty of dry clean rock for an ascent.
    Arriving to the area around 630, the Roaring Brook Falls lot was full, and I think I had just missed getting the last spot at the AMR. As much as I didn't want to add to the cluster in this area, I parked at the falls overlook pullout, the first legal pulloff up the hill from the trailhead, and getting my gear together I contemplated runners vs boots. I tied on my runners but didn't hesitate to add gaiters and spikes to my pack, as well as my new pair of rock shoes for their maiden ascent. As I hopped the guard rail to walk down the hill safely out of traffic's way, I noticed at least one group walking down the road right on the white line and not budging much at all for cars, all while it was still pretty dusky. Maybe those hikers literally owned the road and were claiming it at the time, maybe they were just crazy and inconsiderate.
    I signed in and worked my way up the trail, skipping the extra sights stemming from that trailhead on the ascent as I planned to see these areas on the way back down with a loop and sideouts. I passed a small group of hikers right as I got to the obvious cairn marking the accepted best-approach for the Bottle and Eagle, and headed across the open woods and down the landslide to the brook. I have grown fond of brook-whacking this year, especially of note MacNaughton's west drainage and Wright Peak's Left Wing approach, and tried to stick with it on Saturday for awhile before gaining the high ground between the twin drainages, and started getting glimpses of the open rock way up above on west face. I followed a route of least resistance until I got to the split for the Eagle and Bottle drainages, and for some reason at this point I made probably my biggest err of the day where I embarked on an hour and half of super strenuous side-hilling through blowdown and tight-knit trees reminiscent of MacNaughton's West slope. I don't know why I did this, as I thought the beta I had seen prior (and confirmed after) seemed to urge following the Bottle's drainage down in the cut. I am guessing there is a path of much less resistance down lower considering what i went through on Saturday, hopefully someone will confirm or deny. But.That.Slope.Was.Exhausting. I think I stayed about halfway up to the ridge and at times I wanted to try to gain the top of the ridge and follow that up and over to my slide, but was wary of accidentally starting to ascend the Diagonal as it seemed some mistakenly do that while aiming for the Bottle, so instead of dropping back down to the drainage I continued on my side-hilling trajectory.
    I finally started seeing light through the trees about two tiring hours after leaving the marked trail, and luckily saw I was entering out onto the Bottle and not the Diagonal. I was alarmed to see more snow than I expected as well as verglas, but after peeking around a bit I saw that it was mostly confined to the shaded right side of the bare rock. I hugged some trees on my side's edge of the slide and dropped down and around to the less shaded lower aspect, and ascended some bare rock quickly to get a nice seat in the sun to refuel and change over to my rock shoes. Working my way up I started coming to overlaps and ledges, made probably much more interesting with many wet streaks leading me to often turn and check out the exposure below me before determining whether to look for suitable holds and climb the ledge, or backtrack and traverse at times over the wet areas to more sensible moves. Every so often turning around, the view toward the great range and the peaks to its south was incredible, and snow from earlier in the week was still plainly visible on the upper slopes of pyramid, gothics, Marcy, etc.
    I was very happy to feed my crack addition with some terrific opportunities on the top half of the Bottle, and with the exposure present but not at my limits I moved around areas to ascend different lines, and I found myself using my hands and fingers much more often on this slide than those I had previously ascended, seeing with a sort of pride my fingers and hands turn to chalky and cracked blood speckled skin, and maybe started to get an understanding of the necessity of chalk and wrap.
    I have experienced two very clear emotions and thought processes on my slide climbs. The first during the very exhausting thicker bushwhacks: Why am I doing this? Is this overall experience going to be worth the "work" and literal pain of two hours of stumbling and stabbing and swearing? But usually within moments of being out on the slides there is no question as to whether I would do it all over again the very next day if I had the opportunity, and no questioning the feeling of gratitude and serenity and centering and good fortune of being in such a place in those times.
    The other emotion felt on every slide climb is experienced upon the top of the slide, the feeling of sadness that the experience of being out on the rock is over for the time being. On Saturday though this feeling was felt in a very neat transition, into a peaceful semi-opening of trees with a soft-needled floor sheltering one a bit from the wind, between the slide and the cliff, its own little forest of sorts to sit and gather oneself before exiting to the summit, and a perfect spot to change footwear if need be. Going to the right I soon came to the Bottleneck, and I was surprised to see it was less daunting than I had imagined upon gathering beta. While I believe my skills and limits to be improving, I knew solo on Saturday was obviously no time to attempt that route. There was a pile of snow at the base of the climb, and I made a "guard" who seemed to indicate I should stick with some common sense and keep moving along. I kept skirting the base of the cliff, wondering where my exit ascent would be, how serious a pitch I should attempt, and sometimes scrambling up a bit but then backing down before traversing to the right some more. I climbed up to the western summit viewing rocks using at least one or two tough mantel moves, and realized afterwards I was perhaps not as far to the right as I could have and should have been, I'm guessing my exit climb was above or just to the right of the Diagonal, as I think I could see the remnants of the Question Mark slide further off toward under the summit area. I had that terrific western viewing area to myself as expected, and upon looking across to the actual summit marker I could see a few people over that way.
    After a few minutes of rest and relaxation, I immediately came upon the trail over to the summit, and with it being in the trees toward the north side of the summit ridge there were several inches of mashed potatoes on top of a base of hard ice. This disappeared as soon as I hit the rocks of the summit proper, and after taking my requisite marker pic I took a nice seat on some lower rocks there for a longer break to take in the views of my ascent and the whole of the range and valley.
    Instead of descending directly down the Roaring Brook trail I decided to check out the Nubble as I had yet to do so, and was not disappointed with the close up views of the washbowl and road-cut and the cliffs and mountains on the other side. I had also never been to the base of the falls and after being amazed by the force seen on Saturday I left wondering what it is like to be in that area with the spring melt. I made my way back up to my truck, and decided to camp out at South Meadows sites after seeing the amazing sunset from Loj Rd.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	Bottle Slide snow and valley.JPG Views:	0 Size:	15.0 KB ID:	509677
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    "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
    "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton

  • #2
    Great report on the Bottle! I love the slide.

    Confirmed...there's an easier way if you drop down that sandy landslide into the drainage. There's a 4' diameter yellow birch that escaped every major storm over the last 150 years...barely. If you cross the drainage near there and walk a few dozen yards you'll come to a herd path with occasional cairns. It eventually forks with the one on the left leading to the Bottle and the other upslope/right. I've side sloped and followed the Bottle's drainage on various trips. The drainage is easier, though blocked here and there. There's a few really greasy areas as well...and yellow jackets/paper wasps (both in the same trip LOL). Within a couple hours of the car (for me anyway) I'm usually on the rubble below the Bottle.

    Bottleneck is often wet and the transition from the crack to the slab is the sketchiest part for me. I've always had a rope and a follower on that. I did solo one of the other cracks to the right...maybe in the 5.5 realm and ended up in a weird off-width under a roof. Good fun!
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


    • #3
      Nice one.
      Claudia and I climbed it again this summer. We were in the Bottle drainage too long too, but it was intentional. Anyway, I remember the instruction in Don Mellor's guide book. To 'leave the main drainage where the birch give way to the spruce.' I happened to notice the break (we were in the Bottle drainage) and the species did change where the two drainages diverged. When we climbed Bottle the 1st time we missed it and probably did what you did....climb across contours on a steep side slope.

      On the exit we went quite far to the right until we crossed a narrow bit of slab(2 or 3 steps) with a steep drop-off below. The slab was grippy and on the summit side of it a short scramble with what turned out to have some good hand holds. And not too far from some lookouts near to the trail.



      • #4
        Great report Mike! Appreciate all the details and effort you put into this climb. The bushwacking and route finding sounded tough. Excellent beta from you and the two masters of slide climbing, Don and Mudrat.. Can't wait to return when the border opens up



        • #5
          The route finding on this one really wasnt that tough, going on the great beta from mudrat, Don, i think neil and some others on this forum and other pages, as well as from Adirondack Rock. The route turns and drainages were easy to find and follow. for me it was the bushwhacking that was tough but that was my fault in not following the beta i knew was there, basically to stay close to the drainage. Once i was up a bit on that slope several times i considered dropping back down to the drainage, thinking how much easier the travel could be down low, but then i thought i could possibly get canyon-ed out and have to climb back up that nasty slope anyway, so i just kept on with the punishment on my angle. The next time im in that area will be for the eagle, but good to know for the next time going up to the bottle.
          up on the cliff i noticed a bunch of cracks that looked like possible exits.
          following the cliff to the right I think i crossed the slab don mentioned, then went a little bit further to the right of that as there werent much for hand-holds the line i took up to the top.
          compared to a bunch of the recent slides i have done, this one was terrific for experimenting with skill and ability, in terms of offering up crack lines, finger holds, and friction challenges without forcing you into scary levels of exposure. and the views going up were incredible, and you will probably have that awesome western summit ridge viewpoint all to yourself as long as you want it.
          "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
          "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton