DetailsErmine Brook/Twin Slide Traverse: 7/23/11 (Mt. Adams: 7/22/11)
Duration: 13 hours; 6:50 a.m. – 7:50 p.m.
Benchmarks: Ermine Brook Slide: 12:00 p.m. Ridge: 1:50 p.m., Twin Slide Top: 3:20 p.m. Bottom: 5:30 p.m., Trailhead: 7:50 p.m.
Route: Santanoni Preserve Trailhead in Newcomb – Ermine Brook Slide – Santanoni Ridge – Twin Slide Southern Tributary – Old New Trail – Upper Works Santanoni Trailhead.
Total Mileage/Vertical Ascent: 18.25 miles/4,200’ vertical
Trail Conditions: Dry
Partner: Jim Close (NoTrace)/Rich McKenna (WalksWithBlackFlies)
Clothing: Longs sleeves, pants for bug protection.
Picture Set and Video: Base of Ermine Brook Slide Swim
Mt. AdamsDue to where I work, the easiest and most efficient way for me to stage a hike out of Upper Works is to drive to the trail head Friday night and camp for a Saturday hike. WalksWithBlackFlies decided to meet me at about 6:00 p.m. Friday evening for a quick hike of Mt. Adams. We set out and rock hopped across the Hudson River just downstream of the derelict steel bridge en route. Lake Jimmy appeared to have a new deck put on the walkway. I rarely see pitcher plants in their natural setting. I’ve never noticed them at the lake until I looked down from the boardwalk on the adjacent logs and saw one growing out of a crack. Its beautiful red pitchers surrounded a still viable flower. It seemed late in the season for the flower to be so perfect.
I knew Mt. Adams was a bit less than five miles round trip and climbed it with the dual purpose of photographing Twin Slide from afar and as a warm-up hike for the next day. Besides, I’d never been up the fire tower. WWBF commented that the trail just kept going up and up…more than he (or I) expected. Neither of us had checked the elevation gain and didn’t expect to climb 1,800’ in an hour’s time. On the tower, I realized that I trusted God’s slide creations more than man’s metallic creations. Once at the top, we pulled out some food and the cameras as the sun slowly fell toward the distance mountains. Twin Slide, Emmons’ Slide, Scooter Slide, Colden’s western slides, Calamity Mountain and a thousand other points of interest captured my attention…so many destinations, so little time.
We made it back to our cars and the awaiting humidity by dusk without need of headlamps for a total time of about 2:45 including 45 minutes spent relaxing in the cool breezes above the treetops.
To the Slides
…and so this trip began with NoTrace inviting me on a simple slide hike up Ermine Brook. It’s a trip I’ve been considering for a few years and I’d never hiked with him, so we solidified the plans in early July…with a few small modifications. Specifically, I talked him into following the ridge over to Twin Slide to make it a traverse from Newcomb to Upper Works. Once on Twin Slide I routed us down the south tributary to the choke point, across the middle and to the headwall of the far northeast leg just to keep it unique. With the perfect combination of a difficult route and three wise-guy hiking partners, it was destined to be a great day.
We met at the Santanoni Preserve trailhead, just past the majestic gatehouse of the old Great Camp. The sun was bright at 6:50 a.m. when we began on the old roads. NT explained the various buildings of the area to us as we passed by. I later learned that my father had hunted the area decades ago when a special permit was issued to thin the deer.
The indigenous predators quickly went into attack mode. Squadrons of deerflies buzzed about. NT took the bare-armed approach to the situation with his tank top. WWBF defied them in shorts and short sleeves. Neither wore a hat. They spat in the eye of sanity and, with exposed skin, mocked the vicious creatures...and paid the price throughout the day. I, on the other hand wore long sleeves, pants, a hat and pulled my long hair over my ears in a death netting that immobilized their wings on the odd occasion. The heat be darned (it was in the 80’s). They annoyed me but rarely got past the armour. WWBF and NT left a trail of deerfly carcasses from the gate and over the subsequent miles of the hike. Many of the bodies were dismembered to WWBF’s refined “smack and slide” hand technique. NoTrace indeed left quite the trace as well. In an emergency, we could probably follow them back to the gate like motionless winged breadcrumbs.
Deerfly (and the occasional mosquito) extermination practice and good conversation entertained us from 6:50 a.m. until we reached Ermine Brook at 10:00 a.m. By that time, I knew our personalities meshed well and the day would only increase in humour as the slide and finally the cripplebrush came into play. It was an easy trek over gently rolling terrain. Newcomb Lake sat unseen to our east and glimpses of Moose Pond peeked through the trees once we broke from the main trail to the east on the final fork before the pond. There were several subsequent roads each leading to either the Great Camp Santanoni or Newcomb Lake. Moose tracks appeared midway during the trek as well. We were near Moose Pond…go figure. Over the course of the 9.5 miles to Ermine Brook, we gained well over 1,000 vertical feet.
Trekking up Ermine Brook was perhaps one of the nicest brook climbs I’ve done. The easy grade, gentle flow and diverse geology of the area kept me enthralled. It was a place of great beauty and tranquility with virtually no blowdown in the stream itself. In fact, it would have been a worthy trip for just the walk in the woods without the slide. We passed over the first tributary, (about 6 feet wide) on the left which led to Little Santanoni and followed through the woods until the bank became steeper. It then seemed prudent to walk in the stream.
We rock hopped for a while as the heat began to build. I soon jumping into the stream and walked up the flow to ease the hopping and cool down. The temperate water did the trick. After about an hour and forty five minutes, our water supply began to dwindle. I’d consumed about 2 litres over the ten or so miles we’d hiked. WWBF whipped out his miniature light sabre and proceeded to battle the unseen storm stroopers inside a Nalgene bottle. Translation: He used a Steripen, which glows vividly, to treat the water in the bottle.
Almost two hours after leaving the trail/stream junction, we arrived at the small junction that signaled the slide’s entrance from the right-hand side. NT remembered turning a final corner and being immediately greeted by the footwall. We followed the stream a little farther and like a gem in the woods, the slide began with a prominent stepped wall and stream fed pool of water.
It was the perfect time and area for lunch. The bugs weren’t bad and the food tasted good as my blood sugar rose. NT made an off-hand remark about how inviting the water looked. It took me less than a minute to prove that he was right. I floated for a few minutes as the cascade babbled next to my ear. NT interviewed me with his camera on the “movie” setting, though I can’t quite remember what I said. I just remember the peaceful moment at the crux of our first major success and base of the first major goal. We’d walked over half the mileage of the day by this point. All that remained were the challenging portions…beginning with the headwall of the slide, still almost a mile from where we rested.
On the down-side of things, my GPS, which I turned on to check the long./lat., didn’t acquire a single satellite. In an instance of perfect timing, however, the sky began to slowly cloud over as a slight breeze developed. I reflected back on an early comment that I hoped that our time on the slide would be under a slightly overcast sky to dull the heat. I even hoped for a bit of a breeze. My hopes materialized before my eyes.
Ermine Brook Slide - Twin SlideErmine Brook Slide
The footwall was a pleasant little climb, though what followed was a little disappointing for a brief period. The narrow slide was about 20-50 feet wide for the most part. Rubble mixed with some open slab made up the first part of the trek to about the midway point. Interesting features were abundant, even though some vegetation dotted portions. It was a pleasant relief from being in the woods for so long even if the stream and roads were open compared to many paths. Pools of water became less and less as we gained in elevation. WWBF trudged ahead as I shot pics and gabbed with NT.
The slide opened substantially above 3,100 feet in elevation where it took a quick jog on a more northern track before resuming its serpentine track to the east-northeast. A cleft and various features of interest divided my attention at this point. As the slide rounded the first bend it became straight for a few hundred vertical feet, following a cleft in the mountain. The water obviously followed the dominant crack where the most detailed features were exposed from weathering. The right-hand side harbored the steepest ledges, though they weren’t tall while the left was home to a more rolling slab sets.
At around 3,500’ where the slide makes a slight turn back toward the east, we reached the widest portion at over 120 feet. It was clean rolling slab. Cracks and small ledges divided the weather stained anorthosite on occasion. The dominant beckoned from the distance, a distance that was now much closer. It promised to be the most challenging feature of the slide since the rest was of minimal grade. Beautiful views of Long Lake glistened in the distant haze as we walked ever higher.
The remaining portions of the slab was ever so slightly more inclined and a bit different in character. The mighty swaths of open rolling slab, yielded to darkly stained sets of small sharp ledges. Scuff marks indicated some recent activity on the slide as we approached the steep wall. I had “summit fever” if you can call it that since we were far from the summit. My stomach called for food with ever increasing urgency as we took a break near the base of the wall and looked at its beautiful features. I ignored the herd path that trekked around the wall to the north an into the thick spruce. I was plotting a route upward.
This was one of my favorite parts of the day. Vertical rounded cracks lined the wall from side to side. Small potholes offered places for hands and feet. Rounded sets of ledges in the rough stone promised respite on regular intervals…not that this was any taller than about 50 or 60 feet. It was nearly vertical in places, however. Each of us chose a different ascent. I opted to use the initial vertical cracks to climb the first small pitch and then, once on a comfortable ledge, pulled out the camera to shoot WWBF and NT (with the camera, a gun was too heavy to take along!). The track of the slide wound gracefully down the mountain toward the horizon as a backdrop…perfect.
NT climbed to the top while WWBF looked for a harder route at the bottom just to be ornery. A small rotten tree trunk suddenly passed by my shoulder as I yelled for WWBF to watch out for the debris. NT was, unbeknownst to me, have a crisis on the crux and wa