Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Big Slide 2013-02-13

My hike to Big Slide began shortly after 8:00 AM and finished five hours later. I chose an "out and back" from the Garden because it would provide views in both directions. A loop trip, via Johns Brook Lodge, would've been longer with fewer views.

There's just enough snow on the ground to allow for skiing provided you are very adept at avoiding protruding rocks. I say this because I followed ski tracks to a ledge just below First Brother. At the ledge, the tracks turned down into the wooded valley between the Brothers and Little Porter. I thought it was an impressive accomplishment given the minimal snow coverage and the steep, twisty trail. I have a hard time believing the skis survived this route unscathed by the rocks.

The first ninety minutes of the hike involved switching from snowshoes, to bare-boots, to traction aids, and then back to snowshoes. In my opinion, conditions best-suited for snowshoes didn't begin until the First Brother. I didn't create post-holes but did leave a few healthy footprints. I descended the entire route wearing snowshoes (thereby erasing my footprints) but they were definitely not the best tool for the job below the Brothers. 

Views were limited by a light snowfall and the scenery was monochromatic. Nevertheless, I was able to see the Great Range across the valley through a gauzy curtain of snowflakes. The temperature was slightly above freezing in the Garden and -5 C (23 F) along the ridge to Big Slide. The fresh snow varied from a dusting in the valley to three to four inches above 3000 feet.

Monochromatic day.
Beyond the Brothers, the fresh snow was deeper, blanketed everything in sight and, with the addition of falling snow, made for a very pretty ascent. I love the section that traverses a mixed forest of spruce and birch. The entire route beyond First Brother was untracked.

Making fresh tracks.
Look good enough to eat!
I had to stop a few times to fuss with a binding strap that was causing instep pain. It’s odd how, after dozens of trouble-free winter peaks, these pressure points suddenly appear. The pain became tolerable after I placed a foam pad on my instep and loosened the offending strap.

Approaching the summit, the log-ladder was visible but I followed the snowy path next to it. It also made for an excellent butt-slide upon my return. The summit of my 39th winter peak was calm and deserted. The lower Great Range was partially obscured by the snowfall and the upper portion could be seen only up to Basin. I donned a jacket and spent about a half-hour sipping a thermos of hot tea. 

The Great Range from Big Slide's summit.
The descent through the fresh snow was fast (1.5 hrs) and easy on the knees. The views and route were no different from the morning’s ascent but unquestionably more enjoyable than returning via Johns Brook Lodge. 

Above First Brother.


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