Friday, June 7, 2013

Slide Climbing: Hitting The Bottle On Giant Mountain

Kevin climbing the Bottle Slide. Photo by Phil Brown.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.

Giant Mountain Bottle Slide Mosaic

Mosaic photo of the Bottle Slide. Click to enlarge.



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Kevin MacKenzie is an Adirondack writer and photographer, licensed to guide in NY state and is associate registrar at St. Lawrence University. He lives in the Lake Placid area with his wife, Deb (also a freelance photographer). His articles and photographs have been featured such magazines and journals as Climbing, Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, Adirondac, Adirondack LifePeeks, and Adirondack Outdoors. Many of Kevin and Deb's photographs are featured on the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center's website.

Kevin is an avid slide climber, rock/ice climber, winter forty-sixer, board member of the Adirondack Climbers Coalition and member of Climbing for Christ. His passion for climbing slides and pioneering new backcountry technical ice and rock routes takes him to some of the most remote areas in the High Peaks. His website and Summitpost forum page contain trip reports, photos and video from many of his explorations.

5 Responses

  1. Macattack says:

    I really enjoyed this slide article, Giant slides have always interested me. This rain/slide happened a year after I started going to the Adirondacks.

  2. Bill Joplin says:

    “Mudrat’s” article about the Bottle Slide is very timely: June 29 will mark the 50th anniversary of the storms that clashed over the top of Giant, saturating the “skin” of the mountain with hundreds of tons of water so that it let go and slid down Roaring Brook, carrying trees and boulders with it. The wall of water and debris crashed onto Route 73, flooding the highway and submerging cars. Stranded were the six drivers and 12 people camping on the mountain; amazingly no one was injured. Day and Nancy Lee, trapped in their house near the Roaring Brook parking lot, generously put everyone up for the night.

    Someone else will, I hope, retell this story in more detail as the anniversary date approaches. My purpose here is to say there was a great benefit to climbers from that storm: it enlarged the existing slides on Giant and created a new one: the Bottle.

    These pictures from the archives of Putnam Camp (located at the foot of Giant), were taken from the Ausable Club golf course in 1950 and in 1963, shortly after the flood.

    Giant from Ausable Club Golf Course in 1950

    Giant from Ausable Club Golf Course in 1963

  3. Phil Brown says:

    Bill, thanks for the sharing those photos. Very illuminating.

  4. MudRat says:

    Thank you for the response as well as the wonderful comparative pics–superb. I appreciate you adding some context to my reference.

    I’m happy to see the Question Mark Slide in the post-event photograph. Unlike the Bottle and Eagle, it doesn’t resemble its namesake anymore and is hardly work the trouble. All the others, in my opinion, are still worth the effort, especially after Irene.

    Thanks again.

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