The May issue of Climbing magazine contains a section on alpine treks, including one in the Adirondacks. They all combine hiking with rock climbing or scrambling.
The other treks are in the Sierras, the Grand Tetons, and the North Cascades, so we’re in good company. The authors, however, evidently struggled a bit to come up with an alpine adventure to rival those in the big mountains out west.
“In the eastern half of the United States, you either explore the backcountry as a climber or a hiker, rarely both. Given the vertically challenged terrain, alpinism takes some imagination,” write Shannon Davis and Julie Ellison.
They recommend an “enchainment”—the linking together of two or more summits—that takes in Mount Colden, Mount Marcy, and Gothics.
The journey begins with a hike from Adirondak Loj to Avalanche Lake. From there, you climb the Trap Dike, the conspicuous gash in the flank of Colden. This is not for the casual hiker, as it entails scaling rocks beside two steep waterfalls. In 2011, a college student was killed in a fall.
The authors recommend staying in the dike “until the 2nd or 3rd possible exit, then follow the slide to the top.” This makes me think they were relying on the first edition of Adirondack Rock for their research and are referring to a slide the parallels the dike. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene created another slide on Colden that empties straight into the dike. You simply climb the dike until you reach it (there is no “exit,” per se). For most people, this is now the preferred route. It is described in the second edition of Adirondack Rock.
From Colden’s summit, the authors suggest descending by the hiking trail to Lake Arnold and then continuing on trails to the summit of Mount Marcy. However, if you’re seeking an alpine experience, a much more interesting (and shorter) descent would be via the slide on the southeast face of Colden. (You can read about this option here.)
From Marcy, you would take the Range Trail over Basin and Saddleback and then, the authors say, “angle down to the stream bed that drains the north face of Gothics.” This is concise to the point of confusion. After climbing Saddleback, you would take the Ore Bed Brook Trail down to the North Face drainage and then bushwhack up the drainage to the cliff.
The authors suggest ascending the North Face via New Finger, a route established in 1990 by Don and Janet Mellor and Bill Dodd. “Midway up is the state’s best friction pitch,” Davis and Ellison write. “The belayer has no anchor except to park himself in a deep crack, sort of a rock crevasse, and let the leader sweat it out.”
I soloed Little Finger once and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer. The pitch in question traverses 100 feet of blank slab, with no place to put in protective gear. It is an exciting pitch, but I don’t know that it’s the best friction pitch in the state. There are other good friction routes—on Chapel Pond Slab and Roger’s Rock, for example—that Adirondack Rock rates more highly than Little Finger.
The entire trek covers 25 miles, with about 7,000 feet of climbing and five summits—enough of a workout that the authors say you might want to do it over two days. Whether done in one day or two, it’d certainly be an adventure. But I wonder how many people would want to do it. I also wonder what other ideas for alpine treks people might have. In any case, it’s nice to see a little recognition for our region in Climbing.
Top photo: Will Roth in the Trap Dike. Lower photo: the North Face of Gothics (in center of frame). Both photos by Phil Brown.
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