Bib, Neil, and I, car-pooling from Montreal, arrived at the Loj's parking lot shortly before 7:30 AM and spotted Brian preparing for the trip. Equipped with two-way radios, to allow our two teams to coordinate an exit time, we selected a channel and tested communications. A-OK.
This would be my first extended hike without coddled feet. Normally my tender feet are taped, greased (with Boudreaux's Butt Paste), swaddled in wool-blend socks, and shod in trail shoes. Today I was, comparatively-speaking, 'going barefoot' because I'd be wearing synthetic socks (DryMax) and trail-runners (La Sportiva Raptor). The experiment would prove to be a success.
Brian and I left the trail-head at 7:40 AM, ambled along a fairly dry Van Hoevenberg trail, and emerged, forty minutes later, at Marcy Dam. We immediately spied Hurricane Irene's gift to hikers, the Trap Dike Slide, high on Colden's western flank. We'd first have to ascend the Trap Dike to reach the slide and that brought back a few memories.
|Objective: Highest visible slide on Colden.|
My first ascent of the Trap Dike was in the early 80's. Whereas today one can use the Internet to find timely reports, photos, and videos of the Trap Dike, thirty years ago my buddy Bob and I approached it with the sole knowledge it was a cleft in the mountain, with waterfalls, that led to a slide (Colden Slide). We brought a climbing rope and wore heavy leather boots. We were prepared for a grand adventure into the unknown (unknown to us). The rope went unused and the boots weren't ideal but we had a safe and memorable trip as many, undoubtedly, had before us. I was eager to see the Trap Dike again, reshaped by Irene.
|Trap Dike from Hitch-up Matilda.|
The sun was positioned at the dike's exit and made it difficult to observe (and photograph) the length of the dike. However, the intense glare of sunshine made for very dramatic lighting. Nearly two years have passed since Irene's devastation and plants have returned to take root within the dike's cracks and sandy soil. The dike's high walls enclose an irregular staircase of rocks that leads one through several cascades to arrive at the base of the Trap Dike Slide. Devoid of trees, nothing obstructed our view of the rocks below us, Avalanche Lake and, as we rose higher, the peaks of the MacIntyre Range.
The second waterfall provided the greatest challenge of the ascent and earned its reputation as being a Class4 route. It did not intimidate me but did demand my full attention. Hand and footholds are abundant; one only needs to seek them out and move smoothly and confidently. Looking down from above the second waterfall, one can easily appreciate the consequences of a careless movement or misstep.
|Brian at the second waterfall.|
There is a field of debris, mostly twisted timber, demarcating the end of the Trap Dike and the beginning of the Trap Dike Slide. Actually, one could continue following the Trap Dike to it terminus in the col between Colden and its northern sub-summit. However, this portion is wooded and ceases to be a simple stroll over open rock.
|The debris field demarcates the slide and dike.|
|The base of the Trap Dike Slide.|
|Brian contemplates his next move.|
|Contemplating my next move.|
|Coarse, dimpled rock.|
|What a backdrop!|
We proceeded to the southern end of Colden and, with a commanding view of Lake Colden, paused for lunch. We hailed Neil and Bib and learned they were on Shepherd's Tooth and preparing for their descent into the Cold Brook Pass. We agreed on an exit time, 6:30 PM, wished each other well, and then turned off our radios.
|The view from our "lunch room"!|
Finding the herd-path to the head of the 1990 Slide proved to be a puzzler. Along the summit's trail we found three obvious side-trails, the southernmost one is across from the glacial erratic, the middle one leads to the summit rock, and the northernmost one appears to lead to a tiny clearing with its own herd-path that leads nowhere.
We continued northward, past the two massive boulders forming a tunnel, began losing elevation, and then stopped to check our bearings. I retrieved my camera and examined a photo taken of Colden, the previous week, from the summit of Gray. The 1990 Slide clearly starts at the north end of Colden's summit. We backtracked, confirmed we could identify only three side-trails, and selected the middle one, at the summit rock, for our departure point.
A few steps into the woods confirmed they were very dense. The trees knitted their branches into a barrier that seemed to push back as hard as we pushed forward. We emerged out of the trees and discovered we were above the older sections of the Southeast Slide but not the desired 1990 Slide. Our objective was several yards north of our position. Rather than trample sensitive alpine plants, we ducked back into the woods to regain the trail. We emerged at our starting point, the summit rock, with a greater appreciation of the effort needed to bushwhack through cripplebrush!
We moved north along the trail, ducked into the northernmost of the three side-trails, and started a new bushwhack. After another round of squeezing and pushing we emerged in view of the 1990 Slide. Unfortunately we were still south of it! However, we were tantalizingly close and chose to make a bee-line through more woods. We emerged on the slide about three yards from the established and very obvious herd-path!
Wanting to know where the herd-path intersected the trail, I followed it up the slope to its end. I discovered the intersection is quite subtle and not as obvious as the other three we had found. It lies about five yards south of a waist-high boulder and is marked by a foot-tall stump. I hurried back down the herd-path to rejoin Brian on the slide.
|Trail-marker and waist-high boulder on the left; stump for herd-path on the right.|
|1990 Slide found; the descent begins!|
|Brian demonstrates "crab-walking" backwards.|
|Pausing to admire the view of Marcy and Gray.|
The route to Lake Arnold was in excellent condition albeit the ascent seemed a little more than anticipated. We emerged on the shore of Lake Arnold and paused for a snack and so did the black flies. I haven't visited Lake Arnold, outside of winter, for many years and it was a surprise to discover the quantity and quality of the bog-bridges in its vicinity.
At the junction with the "crossover trail" to Indian Falls, Brian agreed to extend our hike by visiting the falls. The crossover trail was in excellent condition. Nearing the falls, we followed a herd-path to its base. Rather than backtrack, we scaled the rocks and emerged atop Indian Falls and treated to one of the most memorable views of the MacIntyre Range. I turned on the radio and hailed our MacIntyre team but there was no reply.
|The memorable view of the MacIntyres from Indian Falls.|
We continued to Marcy Dam and chose to tour its shoreline. We paused at its inlet to photograph Colden and found several moose tracks in the soft earth. At the breached dam, we stopped to take one last look and then proceeded back to the Loj to end our day. At 5:40 PM we signed out and headed to Brian's car to clean up.
|Moose tracks at Marcy Dam.|
|Cleaned up and waiting for my ride home.|
Around 7:40 PM my two smiling friends emerged. Bib had overlooked to keep himself properly fueled and had 'bonked' during the ascent of Iroquois from Cold Brook Pass. He recovered sufficiently to complete the ambitious hike, only his second outing after a half-year's hiatus to strengthen his knees. Bib was in good spirits and happy to report his knees felt great.
Reunited, we piled into Neil's car and recounted our day's experiences during the ride home. No better way to spend a day in the mountains than with good friends.
PhotosSee all photos.
Brian's PhotosChapter 1: The Trap Dike
Chapter 2: Trap Dike Slide
Chapter 3: Colden Southeast Slide