For slide climbers the most popular route on Giant’s west cirque is the Eagle, which gets five stars in Adirondack Rock—the guidebook’s highest rating for the overall quality of a climb. But another, longer slide known as the Bottle offers just as much adventure, especially if you finish by climbing the cliff at the end.
Phil Brown and I climbed the Bottle this past Saturday. A week prior, all the slides in the west cirque were covered in white after a late-season snowfall, but with the recent summery weather, we enjoyed dry rock all the way to the summit.
The Bottle Slide (which Adirondack Rock awards three stars) is the northernmost slide on Giant’s west cirque. Along with several other slides, this 1,300-foot run was created in June 1963 by a localized downpour. The generally moderate slope (around 30 degrees) and low exposure lines make it an easier alternative to the steeper Eagle.
The approach starts at the Roaring Brook trailhead in St. Huberts. Take the Roaring Brook Trail up to an elevation of about 2,600 feet (about 1.75 miles from the trailhead) where a cairn marks a herd path on the left. The faint path soon crosses Roaring Brook.
Not long afterward, the real bushwhack begins when you enter the Bottle Slide’s drainage. This area was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, so boulders and other debris may be loose. Test the stability of anything that looks dicey. Take it from me: dislodging a boulder underfoot is quite humbling.
A herd path meanders up the ridge, though it’s easy to lose amongst the deadfall that Irene left in her wake. If you lose the path, climb generally northeast along the right-hand side of the Bottle’s drainage, taking the route of least resistance. The secondary growth and deadfall in the drainage eventually clears for some nice climbing in the brook–over stacked boulders and slab and through small chasms. A field of rubble and sand at about 3,500 feet in elevation leads to the bottom of the slide proper.
From the slide’s base, you have an unobstructed view of Giant’s summit cliffs high above. The climbing is steep at first, but the stone has excellent traction. Pick a line of ascent based on your comfort level, using hand and foot holds or just relying on pure friction. The slope soon decreases to about 30 degrees on a nice run of open anorthosite.
The panorama continues to open with each step. The ridges of Giant seem to embrace you from both sides, framing a view of the Dix Range to the southwest. Take note of the slides on Dix. They also offer excellent climbing. The Ausable Club sits at the foot of the Great Range to the slight southwest.
During the ascent, you will encounter occasional ledges that less-experienced climbers may want to avoid. More seasoned slide climbers may welcome the challenge of scaling the ledges. As it approaches the summit cliffs, the slide narrows and steepens, but it’s still easy to pick a safe route.
When you reach the cliff, follow its base to the right. Eventually, it curves up toward the Giant hiking trail. Phil and I, however, chose an alternative exit called the Bottleneck, a technical rock-climbing route that follows a vertical hand crack. According to Adirondack Rock, it is rated 5.5 on the Yosemite Decimal System scale and ascends about eighty feet. If you choose to do the climb, bring a rope, helmets, and other technical gear (medium to large cams recommended).
When you reach the hiking trail, turn right and walk the short distance to Giant’s summit, where you can enjoy the magnificent vista of the High Peaks. To descend, take the Ridge Trail to the Roaring Brook Trail and follow the latter back to the trailhead.
Top photo by Phil Brown: Mudrat about a third of the way up the Bottle.
Click the photo below to enlarge it and see the full slide with inset shots of features along the route.