Ermine Brook Slide - Twin Slide Traverse: 7/23/11 (Mt. Adams: 7/22/11)

Ermine Brook Slide - Twin Slide Traverse: 7/23/11 (Mt. Adams: 7/22/11)

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 44.07229°N / 74.13712°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 23, 2011
Activities Activities: Mixed
Seasons Season: Summer


Ermine 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
Temperature: 80’s
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. Adams

Due 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

Ermine Brook Slide Midway
Mid way up Ermine Brook Slide...a taste of what was to come.

…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 Slide

Ermine 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.

Ermine Brook Slide Headwall
Headwall of Ermine Brook Slide.

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.

Twin Slide SW Tributary Top
Top of the southwestern tributary of Twin Slide.

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 was unable to find a way into the woods. This put him in a precarious position necessitating a blind descent. He then crossed over to the southern side where access into the woods seemed easier. He found his own personal hell in cripplebrush so thick that it nearly immobilized him. This kept him busy like a kid in a sandbox while we enjoyed the view.

The time was now about 1:50 p.m. While he was lollygagging about in the woods, WWBF and I set to the task of relaxing with some food. I’d donned my rock shoes at the bottom of the slide to take the thought out of the climb and needed to get back into my trail runners for the next portion...the bushwhack up the ridge. We heard NT yell every now and again. He didn’t appear to be moving about much.

WWBF and I exited on the north side on a small herd path and climbed up a ledge into the thick growth. It was not impenetrable, but demanded respect. The top of the knoll (there was a drainage on either side) was comfortably loose at the top where we regrouped and began to follow the ridge at 2:00 p.m. A faint herd-path guided the way at many points. We needed to travel up about 300 vertical feet while traveling a distance of a bit over ½ mile (roughly 3,500’). The first portion of the trek led due north and at the summit of a small wooded prominence then led northeast toward the summit and, more importantly, toward the top of Twin Slide’s upper headwalls. We were aiming for the southernmost tributary. I noticed a deer print about halfway up the ridge to the slide top and wondered what its destination might have been.

The trees vacillated from tightly woven to relatively loose where a gentle wind penetrated. Nothing alleviated the blackflies that accompanied the tiring push upward, however. Again, my hair and some deet kept them off my neck. The swarm did not give up over the 1.5 hours it took to reach open rock once again. The flies and fleeting time kept us moving forward at what deceptively felt like a strong pace. At what seemed like the correct place, we veered off the thin ridge and down through the steep woods and ledges. Finally, at 3:20 p.m., I found myself upon a thin band of rubble no wider than 5’. We’d entered the slide just below the final slab which WWBF described as less than clean.

Twin Slide Descent

Twin Slide Middle North Leg
Cleft and ledge set in the main stem of the slide, what I call the North-Middle Tributary.

Twin Slide
Our route would take us down the southern tributary to where it narrows into a thin choke point, northeast through the woods to the central slides. Based on the individual release points, I consider there to be two central slides which connect at two distinct points forming two large mid-slide islands of trees. We’d then climb up above the top island and continue northeast across it and through the woods to the smaller slide set the farthest to the northeast. In short, we’d cross from the extreme SW leg to the far NE leg. WWBF and I had been on the central slides in 2006, but never explored the others. The entire slide was new to LNT, so each of us set foot on new territory this day.

Thick swarms of blackflies kept us company while snacking atop Twin Slide. NT had a white shirt that got darker with time due to the little vamps. The breeze on Ermine Brook Slide was less than a whisper on the east side of the mountain. I saw leaves moving below and hoped for some breath of wind as we exited the thin strip of rubble onto a bit of ledge-ridden slab. The upper portion of the SW tributary below was a sandy mess of rubble, both small and large. Spruce and birch grew in the loose debris as well. The view was spectacular, however. The impressive slabs of the upper central slide were absent on this leg.

A large boulder near the top served as a perfect perch from which to take pics of the land below. After a quick look around, I realized that the thick sand and scattered rocks created a potential hazard. Any one of us could easily loosen a rock unto another without careful foot placements and attention to our surroundings.

The exposure of this leg is almost due east with small sections of rolling slabs entering from the north. Due to the content of the slide, I hadn’t changed into my rock shoes, so I avoided their tempting surface. They were steep enough that, with any sand on the soles of my shoes, I could easily take a fall.

In what seemed like no time at all we reached the lower portion of the southern leg where it choked into a single drainage. Due to time constraints, we chose to forgo a further descent and bushwhacked north to the central portion. WWBF was about 100’ lower than we and maintained that trajectory throughout the next few minutes. NT and I cut over and up through the thick woods and quickly emerged below my favorite part of the central tributaries…a large area of steep ledges just above an area where the adjoining slabs formed a deep “V”.

We climbed the lower portion, took pics and entered the thickest and shortest bushwhack of the day to the far northeast tributary of the array. The woods were almost impenetrable at times with more blowdown than I cared to deal with. After another few minutes, at 4:10 p.m., NT and I emerged at a ledge and dropped down to the headwall of the ne leg. It was about 100’ in length and 50’ wide. My shoes had no grip on its surface, so I carefully scooted down using other body parts to increase traction. WWBF was at the bottom in the rubble having a snack.

Twin Slide NE Tributary Headwall
Headwall of the northeastern tributary.

We dallied not, and walked through the short stretch of rubble to the next set of slabs which were a bit less steep. NT took a hard fall on some broken rock and caught himself before rolling off a small ledge. I set my feet to stop him should he fall any farther. A rock also broke loose on this section and careened to WWBF. He dodged in the correct direction and avoided the impact. {WWBF edit: At the very end of NT's slip, his foot touched an angular football-sized rock, and sent it careening towards me. I initially dodged left to avoid the rock. The rock, in turn, deflected right toward me. My cat-like reflexes allowed me to quickly change direction, and the rock was avoided.} We were getting tired for it was now late afternoon and we’d been off trail since 10:00 a.m.

The lower section of the tributary contained more rubble. WWBF stayed to the northeast and NT and I took a steep bottleneck of boulders around the southwest side of the island of trees where the leg meets the main stem (central portion of the slide). Perhaps I was just being overcautious, but I took great care in this area not to loosen anything and create a cascade effect. The rocks seemed to be piled too precariously for comfort. For information, the island of trees is about 250 ground feet lower (roughly 3,250 elevation) than the confluence of the southern and central runs.

The final lower portion of the slide below the confluences of the various branches was delightfully free of sand and rubble. It is truly the gem of the slide with its multiple pitches of open slab and beautiful cascades and pools of water. They’re too numerous to describe in full detail, but dominate the scenery until the slide peters out below. They seemed to never end when we climbed the slide years earlier. The routes one can take around the cascades or up the slabs are nearly endless. The dominant sections of slab angled toward the central drainage of water, alternating sides on occasion. The crease was often choked with boulders which formed the many cascades. As the elevation fell away, large rolling slab gave way to sections defined with ledges. Interesting dykes of varying composition crossed the slabs as well.

The slide finally dwindled in width just past a large vertical wall on the north side to become a drainage stream. A large bank of rubble defined the southeastern side at the very bottom where it turned north toward the swamp. Following the stream, we soon came out to a beautiful zone of flat, white, open rubble. In many ways (minus the sand), it reminded me of a peaceful zen sand garden. Cedar trees grew randomly and dominated the periphery.


Santanoni Beaver Pond Trees
Trees near the beaver ponds at the base of Santanoni (eastern side).

We discussed various options to get out of the wilderness and around the swamp. The time stood at 5:30 p.m. when we simply began to follow the white stone path to the western-most pond. It took a few minutes to skirt the southern side of it which set us in the woods at the western edge. I then adjusted the declination and led us northeast on a heading of 45 degrees toward Santanoni brook and the path just beyond.

The trek wasn’t bad…for a while. The ponds to our southeast were beautiful in the late afternoon light. We reached the drainage on the other side of Santanoni’s eastern ridge (from the summit) within one half hour and started to ascend. That’s when it got tricky. We started to ascend the next low ridge which stood between us and Santanoni Brook. The woods began to get thicker and ledges increased with the blowdown. A complete ascent would have taken us up almost 300’ in elevation. WWBF got tired of going up, as did I, and suggested we stay on contour and skirt the far side of the ridge. I changed our heading to about 75 degrees and stayed on contour when it made sense. It was .4 mile to the brook as a bird would fly, but not for us. The .4 mile became a running joke with a sharp sting over the next hour.

As we side-sloped the southeastern side of the ridge, my feet began to develop multiple hot-spots. Forty-five degree slopes and sand will do it every time! Ledges got in the way on occasion and we found the occasional logging road to easy our trek. As it began to lessen, WWBF found a nice logging road to follow which eventually led around the last slopes of the hill and to the sound of running water. After a sharp descent, we found our goal. To add insult to injury, it took another 5 minutes to reach the trail after the stream…we’d entered an area where the woods were at their widest. NT kissed a rock on the trail as we fed our appetites and settled for a break at 6:40 p.m.

The remaining few miles passed without much excitement, thankfully. The weather cleared to a bright blue evening sky and the conversations were relaxed. I kept thinking the truck was only another “.4 miles” away as a tribute to our last bushwhack. 7:50 p.m. found us back at our vehicle and readying ourselves for the return to the other cars as Santanoni Preserve.


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