Posted on May 25th, 2012 8 comments Add a comment >>
An article on Backpacker Magazine’s website lists “America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes.” The one closest to the Adirondacks is Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
The mountain is infamous for its fickle and sometimes extreme weather.
“Known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world,” Backpacker says, “6,288-foot Mt. Washington boasts some scary stats: The highest wind velocity ever recorded at any surface weather station (231 mph) was logged here on April 12, 1934. And 137 fatalities have occurred since 1849. No surprise: Most are due to hypothermia—and not only in winter. ‘They call them the White Mountains for a reason,’ says Lieutenant Todd Bogardus, SAR team leader for New Hampshire’s Fish & Game Department. ‘We see snow right on through the year.’”
Other hikes that made the list include the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak in Colorado, the Mist Trail on Half Dome in California, and the Muir Snowfield on Mount Rainer in Washington. Click here for the complete list.
So if you were to choose the most dangerous hike in the Adirondack Park what would it be?
Topping my list would be the Trap Dike and the adjacent slides on Mount Colden. A hiker was killed in the dike last year, and several others have been injured on this route over the years. Another candidate would be the Eagle Slide on Giant Mountain. A fall in the wrong place could be disastrous.
Both of these are off-trail excursions. Any thoughts on the most dangerous trail in the Adirondacks?
Posted on September 24th, 2010 5 comments Add a comment >>
Anybody who pays attention to the photo credits in the Adirondack Explorer knows how much we rely on the work of Carl Heilman II to enliven our pages. In our next issue, we plan to run Carl’s photos of the Eagle Slide on Giant Mountain–which many people regard as the most spectacular slide in the Adirondacks.
I climbed the Eagle last month with Carl and Eli Bickford, a twelve-year-old boy who loves slides. Besides taking photos, Carl shot the video embedded below. The short clip shows me ascending a crack near the top of the slide. I advise those wondering about the steepness of the Eagle to watch it.
Just a background note: I climbed the crack twice, because the video recorder was not turned on the first time. At the start of the clip, I am getting in position for the second attempt. Also, I had badly scraped my fingers in a slip earlier in the day, so they were more or less useless at this point. I relied on my palms and my feet to get me up.
Look for a full report in the November/December issue.
Posted on June 25th, 2009 4 comments Add a comment >>
In the Adirondacks, we don’t have much terrain above tree line, but for those hikers who want to experience a little exposure, we do have slides. These are formed when a rainstorm saturates the thin soil on a steep slope and washes away the vegetation, creating a scar of bedrock and a natural pathway to a summit.
Perhaps the best slide climb in the Adirondacks is the Eagle on the west cirque of Giant Mountain. It’s the only slide given five stars (the highest rating) in Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber’s Guide. The book calls it “a great introduction to East Coast mountaineering.” It’s 1,300 feet and rated fourth class.
I climbed the Eagle yesterday (6.25.09) for the third time. The first time I wore hiking boots and picked my way up by the easiest routes possible. The other two times I wore rock-climbing shoes, which made the ascent much more enjoyable. I was able to scramble straight up the rock without much fear of slipping.
Rock shoes or approach shoes are recommended, because if you do slip, you’re likely to tumble a long way. Since my first ascent of the Eagle, I have done several fifth-class roped ascents on Wallface, Poke-O-Moonshine, Rogers Rock, and Chapel Pond Slab. These all required friction climbing similar to that on the Eagle. As I ascended the Eagle, I found myself thinking, “Hey, this is just like rock climbing–except I don’t have a rope or a helmet.”
So if you’re thinking of doing the Eagle, don’t undertake the trip lightly. It’s much steeper than most slides in the Adirondacks, such as those on Whiteface, Dix, and Nippletop.
I did the trip solo yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say it took me nine hours. I was on the Roaring Brook hiking trail for the first mile or so. I then began a long bushwhack up the brook, which took me more than three hours. I later discovered that I could have saved a lot of time by continuing on the hiking trail and picking up a herd path that leads to the brook. I’m not sure when this herd path was established. I didn’t notice it on my earlier trips several years ago.
When I got to the base of the Eagle, I changed into my rock shoes. With these on, I felt confident going more or less straight up the face. The rock doesn’t have an abundance of cracks, but it has plenty of pockmarks and tiny ridges and bulges for grip.
I spent about an hour on the face. This includes stops for lunch, photos, admiring the views, and changing into and out of my climbing shoes. As you ascend, you can see most of the High Peaks–all unbroken wilderness–as well as parts of Lake Champlain and Vermont. The golf course of the Ausable Club is conspicuous in the valley below.
At the top, the slide narrows into a slot between the trees. This takes you to a boulder with a flat top, a good place for changing shoes or taking in the scenery. From here it’s less than a minute to the hiking trail. Turn left, and you’ll be at Giant’s summit ledges in maybe two more minutes.
The descent by the trail is only 3.6 miles, but it took me two and a half hours. It’s steep and often rocky or muddy, so it’s hard to make good time on this route. On this day, I was further slowed by tight-fitting boots that jammed my toes going downhill.
I’d wager that fit and experienced climbers who shorten the bushwhack by taking the herd path could do the Eagle in five to seven hours, depending on how much of a hurry they’re in. But even if it takes nine hours, it’s worth it.