West Face Slide Groups Dix Pond
Dix Mountain is riddled with slides, and west face alone contains no less than nine. The author has combined these slides into four groups (from south to north): Devil’s Pitchfork (3), Triangle (1), “V” (2), and Hunters (3). These names are unofficial. To the best of my knowledge, they do not have official names, and since I’ve climbed two of the four groups, I’m taking the liberty of naming them until I hear otherwise.
Dix West Slides Aerial Tree
Begin at the Elk Lake Trailhead. Hike past the Slide Brook and Lililan Brook lean-tos. You will soon be hiking parallel to a brook that flows from Hunters Pass. When the gradient begins to level off, look to your right… you should be able to see views of the Devil's Pitchfork, Triangle, and “V” slides. Beyond these slides, you’ll see a buttress. As you continue up the trail, you will be able to see cliffs on north side of this buttress. Soon thereafter, there will be a series of open grassy areas, and you’ll be able to see the Hunters slides. At this point, keep an eye to the right of the trail. You should be able to see a large birch tree that has fallen over the brook that parallels the trail. Cross this birch tree over to the other side (or descend into the streambed if you’re not confident in your balance beam skills).
Ascend the debris field on the opposite side of the streambed. You’ll soon reach a 30-foot vertical waterfall. Enter the woods and ascend up the right side of waterfall. Ascend to a small landslide that has created a small pool on the climber's left. The water is stagnant and stained by tannins, and is not recommended for drinking. The pool is located at the bottom of a large steep bowl, which is too vertical for non-technical ascent (see Jim's Crack section). To ascend the easiest route, traverse to the climber's right of the bowl. Although this may be the easy route, it is very steep and exposed.
Peering into the void
Near the top of the main slide, you’ll see three fingers above you.
The left finger ascends close to the Hunters Pass trail at the top of the shoulder, but it is very steep at top (Class 4 to Class 5). You may need to bushwhack in the woods to ascend around the harder sections.
The middle finger is the shortest, and there is thick cripplebrush and blowdown between top of the slide and the trail.
The right finger is least steep at top and is the second longest of the fingers, but there is thick cripplebrush and blowdown between top of the slide and the trail.
If you pick your routes correctly, there is nothing technical on this slide, but it is extremely steep with major exposure. We ascended what appeared to be the easiest route, and it was a solid Class 4 climb. This is not a slide for beginners… those attempting this slide should have plenty of prior slide experience.
A vast majority of the rock has good grip, but always be careful on wet sections. You can make the climb harder by choosing a more difficult route. At the top of the slide, ascend through a relatively short distance of thick cripplebrush and blowdown to the Hunters Pass trail.
Here is an account of the first known ascent of the bowl feature by James Close:
"Jim's Crack is a concave gully about halfway up the Hunter's Pass slide on the SW side of Dix, a place I was hijacked to by Osama Bin Wechsler and nefarious associates of his. Unable to escape, I reluctantly went along, and humped in from Elk Lake the five miles or so that brought us to a trailside cairn that marks the jumping off place for the slide.
The Dix slide is fairly steep with clean rock, but with lots of special features. It is those special features that make this slide special (like the Eastern Cirque on Giant). As you climb up the slide, you come to a treed island that forces you left or right. Just above this island is the formidable Jim's Crack - a cirque-like gully that also is the headwaters for a stream that drains down the middle of the slide from there. Being cirque-like, it is a natural drainage structure, and it gathers and concentrates water out of the bowl that it resembles. Jim's Crack is probably 50 to 75 feet high, with a diagonal crack from top to bottom. It is that crack that grabbed my suicidal interest. I was breathless with anticipation, laced with a tinge of trepidation that only served to goad me further, like moth to flame. Could I climb the crack? I dared not hesitate lest I found a thousand and one reasons (999 of which dealt with safety) not to climb it, and lest one of my nefarious companions caught up with me and tried to talk me out of it: "Jim, you're CRAZY!! Don't DO IT!!"
So up I went, oblivious to all reason. The approach to the crack meant getting across and down in the bottom of the bowl to start the climb, the crack starting wide, with appealing foot and hand holds. Up, up, and up. The foothold became smaller, more tentative, the crack smaller (why didn't I see that from below?). I concentrated on the holds, each hand, each foot. Never gave fear a toehold, although it screamed in my ear - "LOOK how high you are!! LOOK down! You'll DIE!".
Kept going. Somewhere along the way is a point of no return. You are committed - no retreat. None. You must go up. So up I went. Suddenly, the crack veered right, out onto a smooth sloping face of rock, out of the relative comfort of a dihedral face. It was wet with that forbiddingly red slime, that all slide climbers avoid. What now?
Options were narrowing like the flume of a gorge. Only one seemed to work - step left and up, out of the gully, onto a few tentative holds masquerading as roughened rock. Breathing quick, and shallow. Up - then up again. Hands flat, trying to purchase grip, assessing the angle, wondering if my boots would hold. YES! Then quicker - hurry now - get out, get out, get out. The slope eases - and I'm out.
A whoop shatters the air, and a shout - "That was scary!" Osama Bin Wechsler shouts, "I was scared just watching you!"
And then we talked about what we should call this feature - because it had risen out of the rock to be recognized. Not just any feature - it would have to be named. And so it was deemed - on the 23rd day of September in the year of our Lord, 2001, that this bowl-shaped gully halfway up the Hunter's Pass slide on Dix, shall heretofore be known as Jim's Crack."
Typical gear required for hiking and bushwhacking, including long sleeves, long pants, and eye protection
Approach shoes with good soles or rock shoes. If you bring boots, you may want to un-lace the uppers to give your ankles more range of motion.
Some may feel more comfortable using rope, but it is not necessary. If you bring rope, know how to use it. There are few places to install protection. Don’t trust the vegetation on the side of the slide to support your weight.
You may consider bringing gloves. The rock is imbedded with sharp mineral deposits. Although they help with grip, they can make micro-cuts on your fingertips.
: The author has no knowledge of winter ascents of these slides. Obviously, be aware of avalanche potential... these slides are here for a reason.
: Expect hot, hazy, and humid weather. Being on the west side of the mountain, a morning ascent will avoid the full intensity of the sun.
: Expect ice and snow to remain on the upper portions of the slide into mid-May. This area is likely a blackfly breeding ground. Typical blackfly season is Memorial Day (late May) to Independence Day (early July).
: Expect ice and snow on the upper portions of the slide beginning in early October. Since the slides are on the west side of the mountain, overnight frosts may linger until late morning.
The author and MudRat descended
the left finger and main portion of this slide in August 2006.
2006 Descent of the Hunters Slide