SpecificsDate Climbed: 2013 August 10
Mileage/Elevation Gain/Duration: 13 miles/4,250 feet (both slides/exit over Beckhorn)/12 hours
Temperature: 50-70 Fahrenheit
Route: Elk Lake trailhead to Beckhorn Trail – Bushwhack from 3,100 feet elevation to slide – Slide - Exit to ridge and back over Beckhorn.
Slide (from northern runout bottom) Elevation/Length: about 950 feet/3,000 ground feet
Benchmarks: Begin: 8:10 a.m., Begin Bushwhack: 10:50 a.m., Slide runout: 12:00 p.m., Top of North Run: 2:20 p.m., Top of South Run: 3:15 p.m.; Finish Hike: 8:00 p.m.
Introduction and Thoughts
I topped Santanoni’s East (Twin) Slide on Monday, August 5th. While scanning to the east something seemed amiss in the panorama. Two white scars, partially hidden behind one of Dix’ western ridges, painted what looked like the side of the southern ridge (between the Beckhorn and Hough). I pushed it to the back of my mind at first. The next day, I grew curious and scanned a few photos from trip reports on the forum. Comparing June and July photos from Hough confirmed that Dix had a new slide added to its already extensive collection. Time to explore!
Few things in life are more completely satisfying than exploring a wilderness unknown, especially if it’s newly created. Irene created vast amounts of new territory to play upon. This new creation on Dix reinvigorated the excitement I felt nearly two years ago when I was in the backcountry. This time, I didn’t have as much information ahead of time…no aerial photos or easily accessed line-of-sight vantage points. It stoked my curiosity to a feverish level.
There isn’t any satellite imagery on these slides yet, but they (not surprisingly) followed along the same course as ancient slides that had regrown with mature forest. As a point of reference based on currently available satellite imagery, the release point for the northern run began between two 15 foot runs of old-exposure ledges at roughly 4,220 in elevation. The ledges are clearly visible on flashearth.
Fast forward a bit to our arrival at the Beckhorn Trail intersection a bit over four miles from the trailhead. We needed to climb an
At 3,100 feet we reached my target where the trail becomes nearly flat atop the ridge. We embarked right on a perpendicular course
Once on the other side of the ridge, a heading of 62 degrees true (or 76 magnetic) led us on a counterintuitive route on contour along
After a bit more bushwhacking, we began to see some slides reflecting brightly in the late morning sun. They were too broad for our
Kevin walking up the slide...almost there. This is quite the runout!
I found the first item of geological interest just upstream--a stone with what looked like the remnants of a 3” geode with either
The runout itself became more and more impressive as we ascended. It’s not as long as some from Irene, but the terrain and
The direction shifted rather sharply around an island of tall softwoods. The relative streambeds from each slide (2) were close
Kevin looking up the southern run.
NP and I walked over to the thinner (northern) track as our first climb. It was the shorter run with about 300 vertical feet of slab. From the bottom, we eyed the line of clean stone and put on rock climbing shoes. It was slightly concave. At the time, it simply meant that the top would have the steepest, most exposed climbing. Almost the entire track is on granular anorthosite with a small amount of debris. The traction was incredible.
NP working his way up. About 150 or so feet above the base.
Friction, pockets from differential weathering of the slab, overlaps, ledges, dikes and fractures all made for a relaxing climb. The largest ledge toward the middle of the ascend is about 4 feet high. Many of the features are quite photogenic especially with the sun casting shadows and Beckhorn over your shoulder to the north. NP hooted and hollered a bit (well all the way from the bottom) with excitement. It just doesn’t get any better than exploring new territory!
As mentioned, the most exposed climbing was at the headwall where the stone changed considerably. A steep climb with small remnants (very small) of moss led up to a tiny shelf of unfallen debris. Above on the headwall, it’s all about climbing on small holds with a bit of grit. The slope is about 45 degrees with some short steeper sections.
Climbing a small ledge en route to the steep fun climbing.
It was about this time that I began to feel very odd. My stomach quivered and I couldn’t find a comfortable stance. I was shifty. NP picked up on this and said, “You seem nervous…relax.” It was good advice, but I wasn’t particularly nervous though I felt the empty air below—something I’ve become very used to. I knew I wasn’t at 100 percent, so perhaps I was being too careful? In any case, I focused and all ended well. The situation exemplified that feeling a little off in the beginning can amplify as the day wears on or things get dicey. (NP categorized the headwall climbing as high 4th class/low 5th class).
The run tapers to a fine point where we exited right into the woods at about 2:20 p.m. Looking to the west was breathtaking . There was a full view down Dix’ long ridge from the Beckhorn and unoccluded perspective of the slide track winding toward Elk Lake.
The next “problem” was the descent. We exited to the south down some ledges via the woods to avoid the headwall …about 50 feet. Afterward, we simply down-climbed the remainder before heading over to the south.
Getting steeper, but not quite at the headwall.
Final few feet of the headwall where the pitch lays back a bit. Beckhorn in the background.
While the northern side is a slightly tapering straight line, the southern is wide by comparison, say 75’ across. It then tapers to a narrow curving tip that reaches about 40 feet higher up the ridge than its partner. It’s not quite as steep and harbors considerably more debris. The danger on this side primarily lies in dislodging small (or large) stones on your partner.
Our ‘lunch ledge’ as at the bottom; just above sat the main run of slab climbing. It turned out to be a bit less granular than the adjacent stone to the north. Good friction climbing on the moderately angled slab led up to the first significant section of mud. The longest line on stone was along the left-hand edge. Above the mud was the most challenging portion, still (in my opinion) easier than the northern run.
Blocky ledges with good holds and less exposure led to the top. You can take more exposed routes in the center to climb the most dominant ledge. Still feeling ‘off’, I chose a conservative run on the side. The last 50 or so feet offered good traction, but has a lot of loose stones lying about. We cleaned the largest one off, but thousands of smaller ones still remain (we didn’t bring a shovel!!). It was 3:15 when we reached the top for a well-earned break.
Good slab on the lower section.
Above the majority of debris approaching the ledges at the top.
Obviously, there was no herd-path through the thick krummholz to the ridge—this was too new. It was a blessedly short bushwhack to the path, one that took a mere 5 minutes up about 75 feet of elevation gain.
My original intent was to summit Hough and take the Lillian Brook path down, but I was hell-bent on finding a good view of the slide from afar. Climbing the Beckhorn was worth every bit of energy especially since the journey up was riddled with views and the day was pristine. The top of the Beckhorn yielded an unadulterated perspective of the entire track with Hough, Grace and Elk Lake in the background. As we wound down the snaking ridge, the runout disappeared from sight. The slides, however, were lit up in full glory as the sun shone directly on them. From a direct view, they almost perfectly resemble a lobster claw…an extremely large one!