TRIP REPORT: Big Slide – Adirondacks, NY 1-30-16
Hike stats at a glance:
~10 Miles total
~7hrs Total Time Including Stops
1 High Peak – Big Slide 4,239 ft
This post covers a hike up Big Slide in winter, for an overview of the hike in Fall you can click HERE.
We arrived at the Garden Trailhead at about 6am and met up with our hiking partners for the day. The group was made up of several people from the forums and the original plan was to hit Haystack and then possibly Saddleback and Basin but as you can tell from the title of the post that didn’t end up being the case, at least not for me. We packed up our gear and hit the trail at about 6:30am before the sun crept into the valley. The trail was hard packed snow so our micro spikes did the trick.
The beginning of the hike in the dark was uneventful and after a short time the sun began to light up our surroundings. By the time we could see we had nice views of the sun rising over the Great Range to our left through the trees.
At this point the trail kept rolling along and the day was warming up nicely as we made fairly quick progress.
However, despite our quick progress the group had begun to thin out a bit over the trail and I realized that personally I was feeling a bit sluggish. I don’t know if it was my breakfast or something else but things went down hill quickly and I ran into a bit of gastric distress that stopped me in my tracks. Lucky for me we ran into the Lean-To that had a convenient outhouse.
After our impromptu delay I knew that given my current speed and state of health wasn’t going to cut it for such a long day out to Haystack and beyond. So, once we made it to the next junction and met up with one of the other members of the group we let them know that we were going to part ways so we didn’t slow them down and hike something different.
We considered doing the Wolfjaws as an alternate option but ended up deciding on doing Big Slide since we could see the clouds rolling in and figured we would have the best chance of having a view if we picked the shorter Big Slide. After passing the junction with the register we continued along the trail a short ways passing over the frozen brook.
After passing the brook it was only another short section of trail which brought us to the junction for the red blazed Big Slide trail.
The trail up this side of Big Slide was untouched and was mostly a firm layer of snow with maybe an inch of fresh powder covering the trail. It looked like it had been well traveled over the weeks but not recently. The beginning of the trail started off easy enough and soon we were at the first of a couple water crossings as we followed the brook for about a mile up the trail.
This section of trail was mostly flat and we made good progress as we wound our way back and fourth over the brook. Luckily all of the crossings were well frozen and didn’t give us any trouble at all.
Once we got passed the brook the trail began to climb upwards more steeply as it passed through a small clearing. Looking back off the hill we were greeted by views of the Great Range behind us bathed in morning light.
The trail continued to wind its way through the woods on a very gradual grade which made for a nice easy hike. I was starting to feel a bit better and the sun was beginning to warm up the day. It was also nice that the wind was essentially non existent.
The trail overall was very easy and at times a little dull but luckily it wasn’t a very long section. Before too long we could tell we were making it close to the junction for the final stretch up Big Slide due to the change in trees around us. After spending enough time in the High Peaks they have become my go to guide for progress during a hike.
Shortly before reaching the trail junction we reached the 3,500 ft elevation mark.
At this point it got a bit colder but not by much and the trees had a beautiful coating of snow which made for a great atmosphere. At this point we still had not seen anyone else on our hike as the majority of people who hike Big Slide tend to come up The Brothers and not the other way around.
Once we reached the the junction for the summit we started working our way up over the still untouched trail. At this point the trail ramps up steeply and is a whole lot more fun and interesting. The first steep section is normally a blank slab in the warmer months which has a ladder to help you make your way up but now it was more of a steep snow slope. We could of gotten up easily from either side but kept to the ladder so we did not disturb the snow slop for a bit of high speed butt sliding on the way down.
This section of trail winds its way up pretty quickly and before long we were at the overlook which is also the top of the actual “Big Slide” on Big Slide. From here you can also get incredible views but we did not linger long and instead kept plodding along to the summit.
Just before the slide there is also a fairly steep section that is normally a bit of a rock scramble but on this day it was fairly icy but we still got up without much trouble.
After a couple more short slopes we made it up to the mostly wooded summit of Big Slide. As we neared the summit there was another group of hikers we met that came up behind us. We stayed on the summit for a while to enjoy the view and talk with the other hikers before making our way back down. The views were beautiful and actually better than what I had the last time I was up on Big Slide which was a nice surprise. It was quite cold and windy on top but that wasn’t unexpected for this time of year.
After enjoying the views from the op of Big Slide we decided to make our way back down as others began to trickle up to the summit. The descent was extremely fast as we were able to butt slide almost the entire trail which was a ton of fun. This is by far one of my favorite things of hiking in the High Peaks in winter.
The rest of the descent was quite speedy as well as we made our way along the mostly flat uneventful trail back towards The Brothers.
On our way back towards The Brothers we ran into quite a few people on their way up. Along the way almost everyone was warning us about how awful the ice was on The Brothers and how we should be very careful. We thanked them and kept on our way. Normally I take what people tell me on the trail about conditions with a grain of salt as not everyone has the same thresholds for sketchy or questionable conditions. However, in this particular case I think everyone may have been pretty spot on with their comments.
The trail between The Brothers was not particularly difficult and was easy to follow given the amount of traffic this particular trail sees on a regular basis.
Before too long we were walking out onto the open and icy slabs of The Brothers. From here our pace slowed quite a bit as we navigated the steep icy sections and tried to avoid any major spills.
From here it was also possible to get some beautiful views of the surrounding Great Range which was still mostly unobstructed by the clouds which were rolling in quickly.
It was at this point that we hit the actual sections of steep slab that generally involve a bit of scrambling during the warmer months. We had our micro spikes on but between how dull mine were and the thickness of the ice they were less than stellar. In all honesty a set of crampons would of been quite nice for traversing this part safely. We were able to slide down some of it but mostly we walked very slowly and deliberately down the steepness.
All in all we made it down without much difficulty except for the one section we decided to slide down and perhaps did so in less than stellar fashion. Instead of a simple slide we ended up launching off the end of the slope like it was the ski jump back in Lake Placid. If anyone was there to watch our debacle I’m sure we would of scored a perfect 10/10 for our form! My only regret is that we didn’t catch the whole episode on video. I would suggest being extra careful if you decide to slide down these areas as there are a lot of covered bulges that can be a doozy if you hit them unexpectedly.
A little bit more traversing along the icy ridge eventfully lead us back down to the edge of the woods and the end of the steep section on The Brothers.
Once we reached the woods a short section of hiking took us back to The Garden trailhead without incident.
We reached the trailhead at about 1pm or so feeling pretty good about the day we had all things considered. Sometimes a day in the mountains doesn’t go exactly as planned but that doesn’t mean that you cant improvise and still make it into a fun and rewarding experience. Sometimes it is important to be flexible and always be able to adjusting the plan to conditions in the moment. Despite the change I still got another winter 46 peak checked off my list and Kelly got one more peak towards her first 46 round.