For me, the question was settled by Tropical Storm Irene. In August 2011, Irene’s deluge triggered a new slide that leads from the Trap Dike to the summit of Mount Colden and scoured the dike itself clean of vegetation and rubble.
As a result, from Avalanche Lake, hikers climb roughly three-quarters of a mile over clean rock, ascending 1,850 feet.
“In my opinion, post Irene, the Trap Dike is now THE best alpine adventure in the Park,” Jim Lawyer, the co-author of Adirondack Rock, told me in an email.
Adirondack Rock gives both the dike and the Eagle Slide five stars, the book’s highest rating for the overall quality of a climb.
But while the Trap Dike has improved, the Eagle Slide has not, according to Lawyer. He no longer regards it even as the best slide climb on Giant Mountain.
“The Eagle Slide is growing in,” he said. “This used to be a great scramble, but I think the Bottle Slide is now a better adventure, especially with the Bottleneck finish.”
The Eagle and Trap Dike are both fourth-class climbs. That means the climbing is fairly simple and, depending on your confidence and skill level, you may or may not rope up.
Simple does not mean without risk. A fall in the wrong place on the Eagle or in the Trap Dike could result in death or serious injury. In 2011, 22-year-old hiker died in the dike after falling on the crux, or hardest part–the steep, blocky rock next to a waterfall. Lawyer recommends that people without rock-climbing experience use ropes in the Trap Dike.
Why do I say the Trap Dike surpasses the Eagle?
First, the approach. If you start at Adirondak Loj or South Meadow Road, you hike through Avalanche Pass, where you skirt the bases of two other slides, and along the edge of Avalanche Lake, walled in by precipices on both sides. The lake is one of the iconic scenes of the Adirondacks.
Second, the climb itself. There are dozens of slides in the Adirondacks, but only one Trap Dike. Most slides are open rock. The Trap Dike is a canyon. Most slides are a steep walk, with some scrambling on all fours. In the dike, the hard parts are fairly vertical, requiring careful foot and hand placements; it feels more like real climbing.
Third, the new exit slide. The rock is beautiful—white, clean, and dimpled—and steep enough to test even experienced slide climbers. It is a worthy objective in itself, but in this case it’s just the icing on the cake.
Fourth, the views. The summits of Giant and Colden both have spectacular views, but on Colden you are immersed in wilderness. You feel close to the highest of the High Peaks, while looking down on Avalanche Lake, Lake Colden, and the Flowed Lands. And then there’s the view of the ever-diminishing Avalanche Lake as you ascend the Trap Dike.
On either the Trap Dike or Eagle, I’d recommend wearing sticky-soled shoes. When I climbed the dike on Friday, I carried a pair of rock-climbing shoes in my pack and put them on at the base of the climb. These shoes are roomy enough that I can wear them with thin socks and comfortable enough that I don’t mind wearing them for a few hours. Another good option is approach shoes, which are low-cut hiking shoes with sticky soles. These are what Will Roth, an EMS guide, was wearing when we met in the Trap Dike on Friday. Of course, people climb the Eagle and the dike in hiking shoes, but sticky soles will give you extra security and confidence.
Wherever you go, whatever you wear, be safe.
And if you think you know a better hike than the Trap Dike, let us know.
Finally, click the following links to read full-length articles on the Eagle and Trap Dike that appeared in the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine:
Photos by Phil Brown and Will Roth: (1) Will in the Trap Dike, far above Avalanche Lake. (2) Phil near the top of the second waterfall, the crux of the Trap Dike. (3) Phil on the slide above the Trap Dike. Click on the photos to enlarge them.