Climbing the SlideClick Here for PICTURES
The night prior found me at Orebed Brook Leanto. I didn’t sleep or feel very well, but hoped it would pass by the morning. I planned to, at least, attempt one slide and if things didn’t feel right, I’d just take my time and go to Panther Gorge by the most energy efficient route. The original plan was to be trail-bound by 5:00 a.m. Reality found me waking at 8:30 a.m. and walking a little after 9:00 a.m.
I took my time warming up while hiking to and past the drainage for Gothics’ True North Slide. Soon after, I noted where the slide to the West Face of Gothics intersected the trail. I could hear Orebed Brook below and off in the woods. I was also aware when I pulled away from it a bit. I was looking for an elevation on contour near the beginning of the drainage for Saddleback’s Northeastern Slide not the base of the slide itself. The drainage eventually intersected Orebed Brook. I also needed to make sure I didn’t follow Orebed Brook or I’d end up on a smaller and mossier slide which ran to the ridgeline much farther from the summit.
This took me to about 3200’ where I plunged into the woods and descended steeply into and up the other side of Orebed Brook. Within five minutes, I’d reached “my” slide’s drainage which was several yards wide and slick with moss. The woods were relatively open and pleasant to traverse, so I simply paralleled the east side of the stream before being guided to the mossy ledges by the thickening tree density.
Yesterday’s descent down Armstrong col slide left me wary of my footing and I ascended without incident before being forced off the drainage several times to work around various boulders and the like. After twenty minutes, I found myself at an equal elevation to the bottom of the slide, just a hundred feet east. I’d followed the wrong, now smaller, drainage. It was easily corrected by a quick on-contour bushwhack over to the slide, which I intersected mid-bottom at 3870’. I could easily see the character of the bottom portion and took time to eat some Hawk Vittles and E-Gel for breakfast. I was feeling more alert than earlier and found myself content to study Gothics more closely including the West Face and the snaking marked trail not far away. Voices carried from the Oredbed Brook trail and I thought that I recognized Mike’s from the night before.
The slide’s character struck me as very similar to the North Slide on Upper Wolfjaw. The drainage approach was similar as well as the slope, vegetation and slab contours. My ascent was paced and with care. I was now comfortable on a slope of near 40 degrees, but there was enough intermittent wet moss to make footing “iffy”. No matter. I stayed near the side and had to use a tree branch now and again. The initial area where I entered was part slab and part moss, small trees, grass and a tiny bit of rotten blow-down thrown in to make me feel at home. The mounds of moss grew in the cracks while both green and red/brown moss covered parts of the slab, especially where runoff is most prevalent.
As I ascended, the grade steepened for a maximum of about 40 degrees. The right-hand part of the slab offered two tricky areas. The first was about halfway up and was complicated by the combination of mosses and water. I just couldn’t find any real purchase. The second area can be seen from a distance and consists of a large ledge. It was about eight or ten feet in height layered with mosses and some stone below. A slip could send me sliding down a bit. A partner on the slide would make me a little more brazen, but I was solo and very wary. I jammed my hands in cracks to make a fist to secure myself, while I tested the ground underfoot, which was soft, but held well. In this way, I worked myself around the bottom of the ledge and carefully crawled up to the top.
The top of the slide boasted wonderful views as well as dry slab anorthosite. The remaining slab was actually the easiest area of the slide to walk upon, being the driest. An adjacent slide also came into view. It was almost entirely covered in red/brown moss as it looked from afar. The beautiful character of the slide underfoot showed itself in its glory at this point. I was even with most of the small ledges and Gothics loomed closely in the distance like a sentinel, just beginning to glow in the mid-morning sun. I’d taken my time ascending and tried to just soak in the moments under a classic Adirondack blue sky...something relatively rare this summer and last. The valley unfolded before me as the slide snaked away below with its stripes of moss adding depth of field to the immediate scene. It was 10:40 a.m.
The top of the slide was wider than any other portion and the initial slip point appeared to have begun from the base of a ledge. Various exit points awaited as I looked around the area, though no herd paths jumped to sight. Saddleback’s summit was oriented not far to the southwest, so I focused my efforts in that direction after working my way to the top of the ledge to take pics down the mountain. The woods were relatively loose for a summit and I pushed through and up in relative ease. Two additional ledges of around ten feet in height, clothed in moss and small spruce made climbing a challenge especially at the second one. I’m convinced a short walk west would have helped me around it, but I was in a “direct route” mood and chose the up option.
Head height trees met me as the contour leveled and after only twenty minutes of moderate work, I stepped onto the summit at noon where I finished my vittles and contemplated the rest of my day. My stomach was vacillating between pain and nausea as it was the night before. The next day, I was to bushwhack Marcy’s East Face from Panther Gorge and today, I planned to ‘whack Basin and Haystack. I surveyed the south slide to my next route and spent time lounging. After beating myself mentally for nearly one half hour, I chose to wimp out and take my time via the easiest route on path to Panther Gorge. I wanted to be fresh for Sunday. The easiest route, routed me over Basin and Haystack. Haystack also served the purpose of the perfect vantage point for additional shots of the slide on Marcy.
Onward to Basin and Haystack
…And take my time, I did. It took over an hour to putz my way up Basin’s summit where I arrived at 1:30. The next stop was to get water near Haystack Brook. At least it gave me the chance to meet a couple guys who were talking about how all the trail food tasted the same…I gave a good sales pitch and insisted they take one of the Hawk Vittles packages with them. It was empty and in soon to be in my stomach if I felt better, but at least they’d be able to see the ingredients.
The old Sno Bird leanto area looked like it was once a nice leanto site. I spent a few minutes relaxing in the area and set my mind to get up on Haystack for a possible nap. On the way up to its true summit I spoke with a man about climbing. He inquired about the rope on the outside of my pack. I don’t normally carry rope, but Marcy was an unknown. I said it’s just for emergency and that I’m a bit fearful of heights while climbing slides. He stated a good point, “A climber who isn’t respectfully afraid of heights is a dead climber.” “True”, I thought. I knew gravity worked, so there’s no need to test it.
I stepped past the summit and found a nice lounging spot at about 3:15 where I set my alarm for 5:00 p.m. so I’d have time to walk to Panther Gorge and find the leanto or nice camping spot. Hawk’s linguini and a metrx bar awaited. My observations of the East Face Slide every hundred feet or so boosted my confidence in finding a non-technical route around the base of the cliff…I put my chances at climbing it at about 90%. Haystack gave me another experience…a summit with no wind; very atypical conditions in my experience with the mound of rock! After a couple hours, it had very slightly increased and I made my way to the camp far below.