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Lower Wolf Jaw: Bennies Brook New Slide & New NW Slides: 9/17/11

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  • Lower Wolf Jaw: Bennies Brook New Slide & New NW Slides: 9/17/11

    Bennies Brook Slide
    New NW Slides

    This was from the first of a few days out two weeks ago. I went up Bennies Brook Slide, hit the summit, down the NW LWJ slide,up the western-most Upper Wolf Jaw slide and over to the new UWJ 150' slide (between the two big ones).

    The early morning hours of September 17th, 2011 held the cool nip foretelling that autumn was near. I began the day at the Garden trailhead and walked past the Southside Trail, my preferred route to the John’s Brook Lodge area. It was still closed per the DEC from Tropical Storm Irene. The chill wore off by the time I reached the intersection with the closed trail. By the time I’d arrived at the interior outpost, about three miles later, I was quite warm especially from wearing forty-five pounds worth of gear for the following few days of camping. I went across the suspension bridge and dropped over half my weight in the woods to help with the day’s climbing.

    I took a bearing and paralleled the Southside Trail about 1/8 mile up in the open hardwoods. In no time I crossed the scoured drainage from the Upper Wolf Jaw slides. Twenty minutes after dropping my gear, I reached the open slabs of Bennies Brook Slide which now ran to John’s Brook. I reflected on the stream that previously marked the way and the subsequent 20 minute bushwhack to the slide. Those memories were only memories in photographs now. The slide was now one of the most accessible in the Adirondacks.

    I was awe-struck. It was always a nice little sidewalk through the woods once on the slab, but it was completely gutted. Piles of trees, soil and boulders littered the side. I now had to climb down into the slide track. I also noticed the smell of decay in the sometimes greasy, tannin colored water that ran down parts of the slab. The combination of clean, neat wide slab and destruction was interesting. Some trees still clung precariously at unnatural angles when they weren’t sheared in two or lying around with a clean root-ball reaching skyward. I thought, “Well, I probably won’t recognize any features from my trek here a few years ago.”

    The walk up the mild slope was like walking up God’s workshop of sculptures. Once the mud and rubble cleared and the exposed slab was dominant, all the features previously hidden were in full view (dominant theme on this trip). The early morning sun rose as I ascended and began to illuminate the colorful leaf-work…all with Big Slide Mtn. in the background. Before I realized it I was approaching the, now, triple tributary of the slide. Just below the conjunction, I finally recognized my favorite slide features from the past. A small flow of water had worked its way through the layers of stone to form a deeply inset cascade of water in the steep ledge. See this picture.

    Above the ledge, I aimed for the new tributary of the slide which traversed directly toward the summit. The other legs were still grown in, perhaps brushed a bit by the water, but by no means clean. A steeper wall greeted me right after meandering through two substantial piles of mud, clay and rubble. Thereafter, it gently snaked its way southward. Rolling ledges and leftover soil categorized the now 75’ wide slide. It became more congested with mud in the narrow upper portion. The combination of unconsolidated soil, mild frost and intermittent ice where there was slab made the top the most challenging portion.

    The headwall could have been a very fun climb had my fingers not been numb and wet. Both sides, separated in the center by a thin band of leftover duff, roots and spruce were quite steep. I climbed up the western side of the left wall for about 15’ before switching over to explore the east side. In the end, I settled on climbing in the thin strip of woods. In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest choice since it was only loosely attached to the anorthosite. I climbed as quickly as possible trying to negotiate the trees and ledges that choked the area. There’s nothing like a near vertical climb in the woods up saturated duff. In the end, it all worked out and I found the summit right where it was supposed to be!

    Descending Lower Wolf Jaw’s New NW Slide
    This slide is new in one sense of the word, but it’s obviously slid in the distant pass. I say this because satellite images show a scar, albeit fully grown in. A few of the ledges that I describe below, however grown-in, were also evident in the images.

    The new slide, originating from a couple old ledge exposures, runs in the drainage of Lower Wolf Jaw’s northwest flank. It’s aligned alongside and below the NW ridge, over which, lays Bennies Brook Slide. I made an educated guess on its headwall’s location based on various aerial photos and simply walked from the summit on a heading toward Big Slide Mountain. I figured that I’d find one of the two tributaries or, at least, somewhere in between them. The open conifers were easy to negotiate and the slope was gentle before becoming a little steeper. Within fifteen minutes, I began to hear the trickle of water and felt the contour of the mountain change slightly. I followed the trickle and saw an opening in the woods…the headwall of the northern tributary of this double-tributary slide.

    The headwall was steep, convex and wet. It looked like mostly old exposure slab, but only for about twenty feet. Some was obviously new because of the debris pile that separated it and the slab below. After the blowdown, came about five sets of ledges on a track that was about 30’ wide. A spectacular view of the “stone snake” wound off into the distance below where it intersects the Upper Wolf Jaw slide run-out. There was nothing particularly steep about this section…perhaps an average of 30-35 degrees. I saw larger, more open areas below, however, and new the slide widened substantially where it forked.

    There are two steep walls en route. The first comes after the upper ledges sets (while descending it). It’s around 30-50 feet high and steep. I climbed around this little section to the south. The combination of moss covered ledge and newly scoured ledge created an interesting contrast. A second wall of stone (about 60’ high) waited just a bit below. A single rock sat atop the open slab apparently watching the scene below like a guardian. The slide split at this point. I looked down over the edge and saw the mud deposited from the other tributary…which I then climbed after dropping my pack on a sunny slab.

    The adjacent leg of the slide is less than stellar compared to the longer tributary. It has a few interesting features. The slab at the bottom after the large deposits of clay and mud are very fractured. Sharp angles and broken pieces make up this section. I quickly reached the top after walking around more mud and debris. The upper slab is clean and between 35 and 40 degrees.

    After a quick lunch, I climbed down around the impressive wall at the conjunction. I’m assuming some of this was previously exposed and some is new, again based on moss and the satellite images. It’s worth taking some time in this area since the view forward and backward is impressive as well as the wall itself. It also gives some great perspective on the destruction created by a slide.

    Below, the slide curved down and away from the ridge with the gentle slope of the land. The ledges along the side and underfoot were great photographic subjects and differed from each other: sometimes rough edged and sometimes a bit more angular and smooth. The overall trend, however, from the upper slide to the lower was a transition from rounded to angular.

    Open slab then gave way to intense rubble which yielded to walls of mud, clay and uprooted trees. It soon after met the run-out from the Upper Wolf Jaw slides not far upstream. It intersected Johns Brook farther away and downstream.
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

  • #2
    Thanks for posting a great report and pics. Though much of the scenery looks familiar, there were many angles I never saw on my and Dunbar's trip because of the different lines you took—and your greater thoroughness in exploring multiple branches.