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Colden South Slide, False Summit Col Slides, Avalanche Pass “Skinny” Slide

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  • Colden South Slide, False Summit Col Slides, Avalanche Pass “Skinny” Slide


    Finally after over a week, I'm getting this up!

    Date: June 27, 2011
    MapTech Total Mileage/Vertical Ascent: 15 Miles/4,050’
    Duration: 11 hours; 6:40 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
    South Meadows: 6:40 a.m.
    South Slide Base 9:50 a.m.
    Summit: 12:50 p.m.
    False Summit Slide (south): 3:05 p.m.
    False Summit Slide (north): 3:40 p.m.
    Avalanche Pass Slide (east): 4:30 p.m.
    Path: 5:00 p.m.

    Route: South Meadows to Avalanche Pass. Bushwhack from path subsequent to first intersection south of Avalanche Lake to South Colden Slide. Ascent to summit. Descend 400’ from False Summit (colden north) col to western slides. Ascend first (higher elevation southern) slide, descend northern slide. Continue descent to col and enter woods at about 3,650’ in elevation on 30 degree heading (adjusted for declination). Bushwhack to Avalanche Pass Slide and descend eastern (thinner) leg. Path back to South Meadows.
    Trail Conditions: Wet, mud from rains over prior two days. Slide conditions were wet.
    Temperature: 60-85 F
    Partner: Solo
    Diet: Breakfast of 3 raw eggs, 3 L water, 1 power bar pure, 1 loaf banana bread, 2 cliff bars, 1 blackfly.
    Clothing: Columbia Titanium long-sleeved shirt, ems hiking pants, golite trail runners or sportiva rock shoes, hat.
    Pack: 35 lbs. with belt pack. Other Hiking Equipment: Rope (not needed this time), extra shirts, first aid kit.

    Picture Galleries (3): South Slide (better known as the West Ramp), Otis Gully Slides 1-3, Avalanche Pass Slide "Skinny" Leg

    We'll start this off with an image of Colden's southernmost western slide with a route line...

    The walk from South Meadows began with the sun filtering through the moist air. Trees cast shadows, spider webs glowed and the mosquitoes worked together to increase my pace. I tried to get them to life me in unison, but they were grumpy and didn’t compy. The sound of hundreds of birds in their morning chorus filled the air. A few voiced their discontent at my proximity. It was an ideal morning and pleasant way to wake up. I much prefer the rolling road to the worn hiker highway from the Loj. Spring flooding had done some damage to various culverts along the way and a beaver dam had burst and washed through as well.

    Avalanche Lake, some two hours later, was the perfect place as the low sun filtered through the water at the north end. Colden’s cliffs, still under cover of shadow sang in a chorus, but of a different timbre. Thousands of rivulets and drips of water each added to the song which echoed over the still water. I looked beyond the trap dyke to the steep slides that led the way to my goal; Colden’s southern-most western slide. I met and talked with Dlunartik from the forum who was on his way to Redfield on his quest of the 46. It’s always so nice to put a name with a face!

    We followed left at the first intersection leading to Lake Colden’s east side and in short order arrived at a stream approximately 10 feet wide. I looked through the trees and, glistening in the sun, was the steep wet run of the southern slide. It was 9:30 a.m. The forest of the area was mainly coniferous with some birch and plenty of blowdown. Everything was wet from rain, humidity and morning dew. The only semi-dry areas were those through which I passed…though I was then soaked. I stayed near the stream, sometimes in the woods and occasionally in the water. Less than twenty minutes later, drainages split and I stayed to the right which began to climb steeply up a mess of boulders. I could see the wall of the slide through the trees and it became more imposing as I approached. I questioned whether it could be conquered in whole or whether I’d need to ascend the first few hundred feet via the woods. Partway up the drainage, I found a blue foam sleeping pad, torn and well beaten. I figured I’d do my part to clean up the woods (an homage to “NoTrace”) and strapped it to my pack. I later nullified the act by littering the slide with my own piece of equipment…more lately on that.

    The drainage that I followed led directly to my intended goal; the southern portion of the base which was slightly more accessible than the steeper northern part. I hoped for ledges rather than smooth slab. I got my wish, at least in part. There were ledges aplenty and the slab was pitted with some anorthositic crystals roughing it up. The far south side harbored a vertical wall about 15 feet in height which I circumvented via the woods. Atop the ledge was a complex series of switch backing ledges that channeled the water like a perfect fountain. The rest of the slide, tinged red and harboring lots of moss, ran with seepage from high above. I changed into rock shoes at this juncture and contemplated my assault.

    Several factors influenced my decisions tempered by the fact that I was solo. The north side was more open and steeper. The south started, at least with some small stepped ledges. There was moss and it was wet; traction might be an issue. My original plan entailed sticking to the south, so that’s where I began by climbing the switchbacks. The lay of the ledges then made it easier to walk to the center of the slide after about 50 feet of elevation gain. Each ledge involved some strenuous and precarious climbing using either smaller outcrops or the tiniest of protrusions. Clumps of trees grew in some areas.

    Twenty minutes later I found myself about 100’ high on the ledges contemplating my next move. A vertical ledge set of large crystals made the climb easy even in the flowing water and intermittent moss. Once atop of it, centered in the slide, I realized I was boxed in. No need to panic, but I spent about ten minutes looking over my options. Above LOOKED possible…there was enough contour in the rock, but it was about 45 degrees of rolling slab and since it’s concave, I couldn’t see what might lie atop. Down-climbing would be treacherous, if necessary. Decent options lied to the south, but I’d have to cross areas of moss and open slab with nothing to stop a fall. North looked the same. I grumbled and down climbed the ledge I was on, dropped about 20 feet and decided to cross trek to the north and the open pitted slab. I’d stay near enough to the trees if I needed an out. Crossing the slab was painstaking, but worth the effort. Risk is very subjective and opting out of the more challenging option while solo seemed prudent (also read as chicken). I didn’t second guess my decision, however.

    The northern side was open slab above the ledges. I stayed about 20’ away from the trees in areas that offered at least partially clear paths of ascent through the moss. Pitted anorthosite offered both hand and footholds. One hundred feet of human cheese grater (open rough slab) waited below. I contemplated each hand and foot placement with care which made progress slow and drained energy. Holding myself in place with finger and toe tips did the same. I continued a mantra of “trust in your shoes” on occasion.

    The occasional 1 inch ledge mid-slide offered an opportunity to lie back in the cool water and take in the surroundings. I was about 300’ on the crown of the steepest (and widest) portion: ledges below and open slide above. After starting once again using both hands and feet, I nullified my act of picking up trash (the sleeping pad). I leaned over, stretched to grab a handhold and heard a sound much like plastic striking stone. Indeed it was plastic on stone as the hard-shell case protecting my digital recorder which I use to take notes en route began a descent over hundreds of feet. The case dropped its cargo on the second bounce, the batteries popped out of the back on the third and the entire piece shattered on the fifth. If anyone climbs this slide and is good with fixing electronics, they might be able to listen to a few of my useless ramblings! If the recorder was on during the descent, then a few choice words might be heard followed by some shattering noises.

    The prior couple days were humid and rainy and a high pressure weather system moved in just prior to the hike. Crystal clear views of Lake Colden and Flowed Lands in combination with the slide in the foreground made for spectacular photographs. Elevation changed the perspective until the southern ridge began to shield portions of the lake. As Lake Colden appeared to diminished in size, Algonquin’s east face slides gradually appeared over Avalanche Mountain. A spectacular waterfall decorated its final descent down the small trap dyke bringing back memories from last year when I explored it.
    Last edited by mudrat; 01-17-2013, 05:52 PM.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

  • #2
    Part 2

    The moss gradually increased as I began to climb an ever lessening, though steep slab. This occurred just above 300’ of vertical elevation gain. It had taken nearly two hours from the trail to simply climb the bottom and most difficult section. As its grade lessened drastically, from over 45 degrees to perhaps 25, I sat to enjoy the views and renourish. The hike had taken longer than expected, so the break was welcome. Other than the birds and tiger swallowtail butterflies, nothing but the view was notable…the slide was just plain slab with little character and the occasional island of cedars, birch and moss. Its dull (by comparison) face was a welcome break after the bottom and before the next pitch.

    The slide split at around 3,700 feet in elevation, but this is defined by small islands of trees. The final pitch occurs as some ledges at about 3,900 feet in elevation. This noted a shift back to a steeper grade and was marked on the north with a vertical ridge and on the southern leg with interesting ledgework. Choices, choices…north or south. The north leg was narrow by comparison and, from below appeared to have more moss growth. A relatively clean track did, however, ascend on the southern side of the northern leg. The southern leg was wider with more ledge work and cleaner anorthosite. Its only shortcoming was that it wasn’t as high. I compromised and climbed the southern leg before crossing the meager vegetation to the northern leg.

    The rolling slab still contained some algae and moss, but grip was not an issue, even wet. It wasn’t nearly as steep as below and was still rough and pitted. Small ledges broke the climb every so often. The top of the northern leg was as much moss as stone, so careful footing became the focal point of my trek. The sky had clouded over a bit, which means interesting photography. Most interestingly, a cloud covered the valley below, but lit the slide. It appeared as if the slide fell into an ominous darkness threatening to climb the slide in pursuit. Perhaps an army of Mordor was passing below.

    The slide and the sundews and moss eventually tapered off into the cripplebrush. The bushwhack appeared to be short to moderate so I kept my rock shoes on since I’d also be picking my way up the 50 foot cliffs below the summit ridge. Twenty minutes later I was standing at its magnificent base. It tapered off and down to the south and looked like a rock climber’s paradise with dramatic cracks and routes galore. A small corridor along the base allowed an easy walk to an area of the cliff that had fallen down and leaned against the wall. Inch wide ledges and cracks allowed me to climb the short vertical piece and into the blueberry bushes, though the berries were unripe and green. Fractured anorthosite boulders littered the rest of the route until I topped the ridge and found the path about 20 feet from the ledge.

    I’d completed my tenth climb of Colden at 12:50 p.m. and there was something totally new atop the familiar mountain…a solitary summit. Lunch upon the boulder overlooking the lake below was one of peace and reflection on my many times up the trap dyke and the slide from whence I came. With energy renewed from lunch and hydration, I contemplated my route down and decided to explore the false summit slides.

    The Otis Gully Slides
    Colden’s northern summit is brushed by hikers on the way up from Lake Arnold, but how often does one take the time to observe its views except maybe that of the impending climb up to the real summit? I know I hadn’t taken much time in the past and so decided this would be the day. The open summit offered views of the slides which travel nearly due west from near the summit to the col. My first instinct was to descend from the top and descend the southernmost of the twin slides, but I instead descended back to the col, curious on what leg eating, flesh tearing wonders it contained. I needed to drop about 400’ from the col to pick up the bottom of the first slide.

    The col was relatively open and descended sharply. I took care of the sod holes and carefully wound my way through the trees upon the sphagnum carpet underfoot. The trek progressed as one used to bushwhacking might expect; with the usual slippery footing of moss over rock, small ledges, and biting undergrowth. Good grief, I love it! Eventually the stream built enough volume to be heard in the rather wide col. Temptation led me to the north to intersect the slide on its edge, but the purist in me mentally slapped my own wrist and I stuck to the col until sighting the first old mossy slab through the trees. I had to re-ascend to actually get on the slab where I performed another dance of swapping shoes and slapping blackflies. They were my new company and one brave soul martyred itself as protein for my climb. Anyway, the shoes may not have been necessary since the mean slope was about 32 degrees, but I was tired and that equals unsure footing especially when moss is around.

    I ascended in only a few minutes and mentally noted to avoid it in the future as simply not worth the effort. I crossed to the northern slide when I reached the intervening vegetation. The final wall of ledges looked fun, but I wanted to keep perspective and had satisfied my curiosity.

    The northern twin was much more interesting with more intricate ledges at the top, middle and bottom. As I descended, old weathered ledges dominated the thin slide. Fields of broken slab created footing conditions to be handled with care. The last pitch (or first if you’re climbing it) was, perhaps, the most interesting due, again, to the ledges. The south side harbored a layered knob. Clean slab was underfoot until the 6’ wall at the bottom. A few feet farther and I was back in the col. It was a satisfying slide that I would use as a route to the summit.

    At this point, the col briefly became a bit treacherous. The large pieces of rubble, assumedly from the slide, choked the stream which trickled some 10’ below the surface. The surface was covered in moss and other growth. Holes in the network occasionally allowed a view of the water. I stepped with care. I was still high in the drainage and breaking a leg wasn’t in my itinerary. I made a judgment call to keep my rock shoes on. They’re terrible on vegetation, but I tried to stay in the stream, which reappeared after the rubble field.

    A few minutes later, I dropped enough elevation to find the looming face of the clean white slide on the opposite wall. It looked smooth from a distance, but contained various, if not small contours in its surface. The initial wall was over 45 degrees and it looked as if it laid down once over the first 100’ or so. I sat on a side boulder taking pictures for some time for the scene was incredible. The looming anorthosite wall beckoned from the south and below, the wide col was scoured clean. Small slides intermittently covered the other side, but were red/brown rather than clean.

    I was tired and the slide was tempting, but not so much that it overwhelmed my sensibility. I was alone in a very rugged place. I didn’t want to get hung up on some odd pitch requiring thought to conquer. Pictures would have to suffice.

    Several drainage streams connected via various ledges in the drainage which funneled into one central gorge. It was wide at first but narrowed and increase in depth with my passage. A shattered layer of stone, broken into rectangular pieces littered the initial and widest area. With some time and energy it appeared as if the splayed puzzle could be reassembled…a bit of superglue might even make it whole…for a time!

    Boulders choked the stream as I descended ever nearer to the cliff face of avalanche pass and an assumedly technical descent of some height. My purpose was to descend to the leading edge of the next most southern slide (on the left while descending), one that was steeper and also quite clean. A redirect of about 30 degrees after taking declination into account would then keep me above the cliffs and ledges to the next drainage, but I get ahead of myself.

    The area was so impressive that I can’t wait to go back and explore further. The cascades and angles of the stone were both oppressive and beautiful…a truly wild area whose beauty was created by some incredible natural violence. The northeastern wall was, by now, very steep and peeled clean of vegetation for about 10 or 20 feet. I found an area with enough contour to climb into the cedars for yet another shoe change dance, grabbed some nutrition and checked my compass.

    The passage was relatively easy thereafter. It only took 20 minutes to reach the next col. A mixture of fir, cedar and a few birch choked the area. Blowdown was moderate. The challenge was simply keeping my heading while ascending and crossing the curved mountainside. Small slick slides as well as a steeper descent heralded the next drainage.

    It was narrow and choked with trees by comparison, at least where I intersected it. A few small slides allowed me to literally slide into it. At this point, I’d two obvious choices based on energy level and goals. The first was to continue down the drainage to the pass and path below, but that would eliminate a final slide possibility. The contour map showed that it should be navigable. The second option was to ascend the steep wall of the northeastern side and try my luck with the woods. Hopefully, they be no worse than the last passage. The compass heading of 30 degrees was set to lead me to the edge of Avalanche Pass Slide which I’d explored years earlier. I gave myself enough margin of error so I wouldn’t pass over the top. I chose this option since my energy level was renewed after my last snack. It was also only about 3:30 p.m. and the days were now long. I also didn’t want Neil or Jim to call me lazy for by passing a last possibility…
    Last edited by mudrat; 11-27-2012, 08:17 PM.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


    • #3
      Part 3

      Another 20 minutes of whacking brought me to the edge of the slide, 2/3 of the way up its southwestern side. The broad expanse of the 300’ wide slab was a welcome sight and great place to do the shoe change dance…again. I was getting good at it! I was also in need of a good hearty snack and not just a quick fix. My goal was to descend the slide’s more eastern and narrow leg, but I first needed to cross trek it to the top. A small depression under the headwall comfortably hugged by high quarters and contained my pack. The rest of my grandmother’s banana bread tasted incredible in combination with views from across the pass. Algonuin’s looming hulk was obviously dominant.

      Visions of the day passed through my mind as food passed into my mouth. I’d overcome some hefty obstacles, some natural and some to do with self-confidence. I played the conservative card at times and took chances at other juncture. As I prayed earlier in the morning, I chose the right “paths” at the right times.

      Avalanche Pass Slide Descent
      The whack through the brush took only minutes and I popped out on the western side of the headwall…a steep headwall with a beautiful flow to its surface. The upper most and steepest portion of the headwall descended for about 100 feet before reaching the bottom edge which seemed to be carved by an artist. It edge flowed with delicate arcs and sharper points blunted by the passage of time and weather.

      The additional 100 feet of the upper pitch abrupt transitioned northwest and was, perhaps, the sketchiest area of the slide. It ended in a 10’ ledge that had no significant contour by which to descend. The edge, however, did drop in height a bit lower and allowed me pass to the opposite side. The change in direction is caused by a cleft in the mountainside. It’s about 5-8’ wide with rolling ledges on both sides. The small gorge was choked with blowdown, both old and new. Trees with green leaves grew where they’d fallen, assumedly undermined by the wet weather of this past spring. As with all drainages, picturesque cascades made the descent photo worthy. The slide took a further turn northwest a little over halfway down. Some 20 minutes after finding the headwall, I’d descended to the intersection with the main slab. It is over 400’ wide where the two sections join.

      Accessing the main slab was easiest from a depression near the bottom of the stream. The rounded lip made it a bit more difficult where they first met. It was a simple descent down the main slab and a few ledge sets to the trail, just beyond the rubble field from that point. It was time to dance the final shoe change dance of the day. I let my feet soak in the cool water. Extensive time in new rock shoes had created blisters and then open wounds where the blisters had worn through. The time stood at 5:00 p.m. Another walk of about 5 miles found me at the truck at about 6:30 p.m.
      Last edited by mudrat; 07-06-2011, 06:26 PM.
      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


      • #4
        Fantastic Kevin, well done! I'm looking forward to the pictures!


        • #5
          What a day that must have been!

          I can't believe I read the whole thing. Some parts twice even! Beautiful descriptive writing with just the right amount of detail. To follow along I used Google Earth, Topo! and the picture you sent me last week. I can't wait to follow in your footsteps. It'll take me a while to catch up.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Neil View Post
            Beautiful descriptive writing with just the right amount of detail.
            Maybe it's a good thing he lost the digital recorder then!?
            EULA: By reading this post and associated disclaimer, you are consenting to agree with the opinions disclosed within. If you disagree with this license agreement, you may not return it for a refund.


            • #7
              Originally posted by masshysteria View Post
              Fantastic Kevin, well done! I'm looking forward to the pictures!
              Hey, there....the pics are in the header info as 3 different links...
              May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.



              • #8
                Originally posted by Neil View Post
                What a day that must have been!

                I can't believe I read the whole thing. Some parts twice even! Beautiful descriptive writing with just the right amount of detail. To follow along I used Google Earth, Topo! and the picture you sent me last week. I can't wait to follow in your footsteps. It'll take me a while to catch up.
                Thank you very much! Neil, you'd really appreciate it. I want to get back in that drainage and follow it to the cliff. So many things to see there!
                May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.



                • #9
                  Originally posted by daLunartik View Post
                  Maybe it's a good thing he lost the digital recorder then!?
                  Uh, yeah...i switched over to the camera and listening after the fact is funny. Amusing to listen to myself searching for words b/t breaths while obviously needing a bit of food on a couple occasions. Anti-eloquence at its finest!
                  May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.



                  • #10
                    It took me two sittings to read and then I was too tired to reply last night. Awesome pics, descriptions and visual aids Kevin! I think a few more long range pics with red lines would have helped though—it was tough following the last half. I think I got it though.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Gregory Karl View Post
                      It took me two sittings to read and then I was too tired to reply last night. Awesome pics, descriptions and visual aids Kevin! I think a few more long range pics with red lines would have helped though—it was tough following the last half. I think I got it though.
                      Thank you, Sir!
                      Yeah, I sent a pic to neil, but lost the pic. Took too long to get the report up, so I just put what I had.

                      Neil, do you have that pic you could post in a reply or send it back to me and I'll post it?
                      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.