Thursday, June 27, 2013

Slide Climbing: Gothics Rainbow Slide

On Gothics Rainbow SlideThe remote east face of Gothics Mountain, home of the Rainbow Slide, is a stunning destination for both technical slide climbing and scrambling. It is not for the beginner,  but those accustomed to back country navigation and exposure on mixed climbing conditions.

The sections of the face from lowest to highest elevation include a low-angle slide over 500 feet long, a technical slab that’s home to three routes rated 5.5 to 5.7 in the Yosemite Decimal System and runs of moss-laden bedrock leading up toward the summit. The three segments can be linked together to form a single challenging ascent.

The round trip totals fall at about 14 miles with 5,200 feet of elevation gain. The typical approach begins by parking at the designated lot just off of Route 73 on Ausable Road in St. Huberts (across the street from Giant Mountain’s Roaring Brook Falls trailhead). Walk about a half mile to the gatehouse; the next several miles follow the Lake Road to Lower Ausable Lake. Continue up the Weld Trail; you won’t reach state-owned land until partway up so be sure to observe all Adirondack Mountain Reserve regulations as detailed in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks Trails guidebook (St. Huberts Section).

The trail passes over several brooks and climbs steeply to the Sawteeth-Pyramid col. Continue right at the intersection to the summit of Pyramid Peak, one of the most dramatic High Peak vistas. Gothics’ sculpted South Face lies to the northwest while the upper Great Range sprawls off to the slight southwest. By now, you’ve hiked over six miles with 3,500 feet of elevation gain between you and the trailhead. Fear not, the approach is nearly complete.

Bushwhack down to the lowest slide from the level section of trail at the Pyramid-Gothics col. Expect to encounter deadfall, sod-holes, wet ledges and slick slab as you descend one-third of a mile and 950 vertical feet. Be sure to stay near the drainage and err to the north to avoid steep ledges on the right. As a side note, a winter descent on a firm snowpack takes about half the time and effort as you half walk-half glissade.

Technical climbers may prefer to descend only part of the way and walk directly to the fifth class slab located at about 3,850 feet in elevation. If you’re going to visit the area, however, I believe it’s worth exploring the face in its entirety including the first run. Gothics towers about 1,200 vertical feet above the low-angle slab. Ridges surround you on all sides save the southeast. Take note of the nearby cliffs. Their striped contours add depth and a unique beauty to the setting.

Walk up the gentle grade for about 550 feet on fair-quality slab. Two primary drainages sit atop the pitch; the left-hand option cuts through the trees  and exits on mossy anorthosite near the inceptions of the Goodwin-Stanley Route.  The right-hand drainage is shorter and leads to the bottom of the technical slab, also the beginning of the “Pot of Gold” and “Over the Rainbow” routes. Refer to Adirondack Rock for specific route information. The slab quality is excellent with exciting friction ascents. Traverse left along the base of the slab to the start of “Teddy’s Trauma”, the most difficult route with a rating of  5.7. A long tributary run of the slide at the top provides the most expeditious exit from the top if your primary goal is only this exposure. The summit is up and left on the trail.

Gothics East Face mosaic.To the south beyond “Teddy’s Trauma” lies the overgrown bedrock of the Goodwin-Stanley Route. This is considered fourth class climbing, but can be quite tricky due to the poor slab quality—moss and dirt are poor partners of traction. Islands of trees, however, offer protection as necessary. Ascending the slab often involves climbing on small interruptions in the moss growth so assess each section and choose your preferred line from below.

Climb toward an obvious ledge that traverses a few hundred feet across the face. Parallel it from below until it ends. The route continues up almost 200 feet toward the right-hand side of an overhanging roof. Pick the cleanest line in the mixture of mossy slabs, grass and trees. This is all easier said than done and can be an exhausting endeavor depending on the conditions.

A semi-exposed move at the top leads to a scramble up a vegetated slope to the overhang. Walk underneath and don’t forego a long look behind. You’ve earned it! If I had to pick the most dramatic viewpoints on the East Face, this would sit firmly in the top three. The stone of Gothics frames Pyramid on one side while the slope falls away to the left.  The view east includes an extensive panorama including Giant, the Lower Ausable Lake and Lake Champlain. An easy scramble to an 8-foot wall on the right leads to a thick but short bushwhack. Push through the krummholz  to the trail and follow it left to reach the summit. Trek back over Pyramid and exit along the same route to finish the day.

Friends Rich McKenna, Mike McLean, Greg Kadlecik joined me for a long day of climbing on June 15, 2013. During the adventure, we linked the East Face, South Face (Original Route 5.4) and North Face (New Finger Slide 5.1). Our ascent up the East Face followed a slightly easier variation of “Over the Rainbow” (5.5) and connected to the upper portion of the Goodwin-Stanley Route. Click here to read a full account including photographs and video.

Mosaic photos of this face during winter are linked here: 2012 or 2013. Our route in 2012 coincided with the Goodwin-Stanley Route. My 2013 climb with Anthony Seidita started at the same point as the Goodwin-Stanley Route, but deviated to a more difficult and (to my knowledge) undocumented route directly to the summit.

Climbing slides is dangerous. A fall in the wrong place could result in serious injury or even death, and help may be hours away. Slide climbers should be familiar with off-trail navigation, comfortable with high-angle scrambling, and prepared for backcountry emergencies. Novices should be accompanied by a licensed guide or experienced slide climber.

Photo above: climbers Rich McKenna, Greg Kadlecik and Kevin MacKenzie climb the first pitch of the “Over the Rainbow” Route (photo by Mike McLean). Below, Mosaic of key points on the east face of Gothics.

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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.

2 Responses

  1. Deepforest says:

    Very nice comprehensive description of the East face. Linking the South face and East face must have made for a long and rewarding day. Amen to the face it takes half the time in the winter to downclimb to the base of the slide. Keep the amazing slide reports coming.

  2. Thanks DF. Both our descent and the one with NP the year before were identical. It made me appreciate winter! The ascent, however, was much easier than what we did.

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