Almost Big Slide


Trailhead: Garden, Keene Valley, NY
Date of climb: June 23, 2012
#27: Big Slide, 4240 ft. (to be reclimbed at a later date)

I hiked all of Big Slide today except for the last 20 feet or so to the summit. It was extremely frustrating to have had to turn back when I was so close, but Mother Nature prevented me from reaching my goal today.

When I arrived at the Garden trailhead at around 8:30 am, the lot was already full. The gate attendant told me it’s usually full by 6:30-7 am on weekends, which I hadn’t anticipated. I ended up having to park at the Marcy airfield and take a shuttle to the trail and this mishap cost me about 45 minutes of prime hike time, when the sun was still shining and there was not a hint of rain in the blue sky.

The loop trail going left from Garden was very pretty and surprisingly easy to hike – the elevation gain was extremely gradual with no steep climbing. I’d been hiking for only about an hour when I heard thunder, and in the first 4-5 miles of the hike there were periodic showers followed by brilliant sun, and distant thunder rumbling occasionally in the sky. I was loving hiking in these conditions – rain always has a way of making everything in the woods look pristine and crisp. This weather continued for another 2 miles or so after turning onto the trail toward Big Slide, the beginning of which was 2.3 miles to the summit. Then, when I was just below the peak (but still not above tree line, thankfully), it started pouring – soaking, drenching rain. And then it started hailing. And then it started thundering and lightening.

I stood below treeline for over an hour waiting for it to pass. It finally seemed like it was dying down a bit; the rain slowed to a moderate but steady shower, the hail stopped and the thunder sounded more distant again – but I was still seeing occasional flashes of lightening. I waited some more. Eventually I thought it had finally passed and decided to start up the rest of the way to the summit. I climbed the ladder that had been placed over some steep rocks to protect the vegetation beneath.  When I reached the top, I saw another flash of lightening and knew I had made a mistake. At the same time I looked up at the summit and saw the very last hurdle: the steep, verticle boulders, a challenge in dry conditions, were slick from the rain. The conditions for hiking were just too dangerous and I reluctantly decided to retreat.

My initial plan had been to hike Big Slide peak and then loop around over the three Brothers, back to the Garden trailhead. Since the rest of the hike would have put me on open ridges for a good portion, I had to go back the way I’d come… so instead of 4 summits in 9 miles of hiking, I ended up with 0 summits and nearly 11 miles.

A bummer of a day, but I still enjoyed most of it. The trails were beautiful and it was fun going up the open rock slide. There were many river crossings and switchbacks that were much easier going up when it hadn’t poured yet than going down. About 3 miles from the end of my hike, a deer walked out of the woods right in front of me! My camera was buried in layers of plastic inside my pack and I eventually snapped a picture when it was almost too late.

When I was about a mile from Garden at the very end of my hike, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The sky was brilliantly blue again, and it would have seemed like I imagined all that bad weather if not for the wet leaves and mud puddles everywhere.  I will have to return and hike Big Slide again to officially count it as one of my 46.

rock slide on side of mountain, which the trail follows for a bit.



12 thoughts on “Almost Big Slide

  1. Cool looking trail. I once tried to hike Mt. Greylock, North Adams, MA in a snowstorm. My partner and I kept on tackling it and tried and tried when finally the sliding backwards became permanent. Well, I hope you weren’t expecting to hike to 46 peaks in 46 tries, you’ve got a potential 46/47. Good luck ADIRONDACKER!

    • Lightening was (and is) the only real stopper when it comes to venturing above treeline. The fact that the rocks were slippery was something I could have resolved if I either had another hiker with me to help or had remembered to bring my poles, which were in the overflow lot in my car. Ah well. Preparedness is key (snowshoes and spikes are necessary for winter hiking; sometimes when you’re equipped with the right tools it’s amazing what you can accomplish). But of course, nature always has the final say, and calls the shots… was having a conversation about this with someone I met on the trail yesterday. When to push forward and when to retreat is a fine line, and sometimes hard to navigate.

  2. Pru!! I feel your pain for having to turn back! However you did make the right decision…the mountians have been there many years, and they will be there tomorrow to climb again! Who knows…maybe next trip I can be the other hiker to help you over the rocks?? I’ll be in touch! And remember…any day on the trail is ALWAYS better than even a good day at work!!! 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  3. I just love all the pictures Pru! Kind of a bummer for you, but what a great way to spend your day off from work. Such a peaceful place.

  4. There’s much to be said for conservatism in these situations, Pru and Big Slide is not a tough one to have to repeat. I summited Haystack on a prayer and a derrière and returned post 46 for the views! Let me know when planning the repeat, Big Slide is one I’d gladly do again.

    • Did you find it tough to get over the boulders just below the summit, being that we’re pretty close in height? The rest of the hike was surely a piece of cake. And you’re right… there are worst ones to have to repeat! I really enjoyed the hike itself, not to mention it was so gradual that I thought it to be easier than Cascade and Porter, in all honesty. It’s just that bump at the top that stresses me out a bit when I think about it…

      • Pru, I assume you’re referring to the very top after the 2 trails converge? – I happen to LOVE those very steep segments & hike them using all 4 limbs- one reason I don’t use poles. Thanks to genetics I can pull my body up almost anything using my arms. You’ll find Colden to be a bit like that & for a longer stretch, and certainly the Saddleback cliffs are even more so. They’re a bit too much- did I say that? Just make sure you do them uphill & with someone a bit taller & stronger than you. Such a hiking partner will make all the difference. I did them alone but almost didn’t 😉

      • I think what I need is a smaller, lighter pack for the ones that require 4-limb climbing. I am definitely fearing Saddleback, and hoping that if I do Saddleback and Basin separately I will eliminate some of the biggest challenges in that regard. I’ll get up the bump on Big Slide some way or another; and better to get practice on this one before taking on the others! By the time I do Colden I should be an old pro, being that it will be my 46th. Must find a way to get champagne up there for that one. 🙂

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