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.
Last weekend I got a last minute performing gig at the Indianapolis 500 (which, goodness gracious, is the largest event I have ever seen in my life) and an unexpected financial windfall. That allowed me to indulge myself a little bit and make a purchase to which I have been looking forward for some time. I went to my local outdoor equipment store and picked out rope, belay devices, webbing, locking carabineers and – joy of joys – some new climbing shoes.
I haven’t rock climbed in more than a decade – nothing technical anyhow – and I haven’t done any serious pitches in two decades, but this summer is going to be my chance to change that before age robs me of such abilities as remain in my body. The best part is that I’m going to do it on my own land, a circumstance that still has me pinching myself. » Continue Reading.
The Raquette River, from Raquette Falls to the State Boat Launch on Tupper Lake, is one of the nicest stretches of flat-water anywhere in the Adirondacks. Paddling this river corridor under a clear cerulean blue sky, on a sunny autumn day with the riverbanks ablaze in orange and red, is exquisite. For me, though, the river’s history is as captivating as its natural beauty.
Countless people have traveled this section of river over the centuries. There were native peoples who hunted, fished, and trapped, the hinterlands of Long Lake and further into the Raquette Lake area, long before whites appeared on the Adirondack Plateau. There were the early farmers and families wanting to start a new livelihood. There were the guides and their wealthy “sports”, (and later the families of these sports) desiring adventure and recreation. There were people seeking better health and relief from the despair and disease of the cities. There were merchants, hotelkeepers, charwomen, day labors, ax-men, river drivers, and a host of others. There were the famous, the not so famous, and the down-and-out.
All of these people, and many others, used the Raquette ( Racket or Racquette ) River as a transportation highway. The number of footfalls on the carries at and around Raquette Falls is limited only to the imagination. In his book Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson refers to the nearby Indian Carry, at Corey’s separating the Raquette River system from the Sacanac River system, as the “Times Square of the woods.” ( Note: In the Adirondacks one “carries” around rapids and waterfalls, one does not “portage.” ) » Continue Reading.
High Falls Gorge is once again open for the season after a brief bout of April spring-cleaning. The year-round waterfall attraction in Wilmington uses the months of April and November to switch gears between winter snowshoeing and summer walks. Along with the waterfall walks, this Saturday marks the grand opening of the River View Café Beer and Wine Bar.
President and Owner of High Falls Gorge Kathryn Reiss says, “We wanted to have a beer and wine café available to allow visitors a chance to slow down and relax. It is located right near the existing seating area. The kids can do the inside mining activity while parents shop or relax with a local beer.”
Reiss has deliberately chosen to stock the River View Café with local craft beer as well as New York State wines and cheeses. For her it’s a matter of pride. She looks forward to adding wine tasting events to the schedule, but for now the beer and wine bar will only be open during the High Falls Gorge’s regular business hours. » Continue Reading.
Some people just see clouds. Others see all sorts of things—funny little poodles, wrinkly faces, continents. And once the shapes define themselves in the minds of the beholders, they become real and clear. “What do you mean, you can’t see it?” the visionary might ask. “It’s as plain as the nose on my face.”
Such was my impression when I first looked up at the wooded slopes of Crane Mountain. My host, Jay Harrison, was pointing up. “Those are the Summit Cliffs. Way over there is Beaverview Wall. Down and to the right, that’s the Slanting Cracks Wall.”
To me, it looked like a steep woodlot, punctuated by a scattering of small, rocky areas. To Jay, it was the next Adirondack rock-climbing mecca. » Continue Reading.
Denizens of all things Adirondack can have robust debates about which historical events have had the greatest impact on the Adirondack park.
From Champlain firing his arquebus in 1609 to Colvin’s ascent of Seward in 1870 to Forever Wild in 1894 to the Olympics and acid rain, history gives us a long list of worthy possibilities. There being no single correct answer, one candidate high on my list would be Archibald Campbell’s aborted and errant 1772 survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield purchase. » Continue Reading.
In the Adirondacks we have guides for everything: where to hike with your dog, or your kids, guides for climbing, kayaking, and geology. From slide skiing and scat, to bouldering and birding, you can find a guide perfect for your individual Adirondack experience. Russell Dunn’s Adirondack Waterfall Guide (Black Done Press, 2003) is a great gift for everyone with an interest in the Adirondacks, no matter what their inclinations, from sporting to sightseeing.
From roadside views to wilderness treks and canoe paddles, author Dunn has selected waterfall adventures for every ability based on twenty years of exploration. Covering many of the significant waterfalls in the eastern half of the Park, the guide is organized along major travel routes and includes easy-to-follow directions and 50 maps. Vintage postcards and line art accompany the text which includes notes on accessibility, difficultly, and history. » Continue Reading.
Twice within a week recently, earthquakes were felt across the North Country, and just a few minutes later, folks were chattering about it on social media. Mainstream news outlets quickly picked up the story and posted it on their websites. That’s quite a contrast to the early morning hours of September 5, 1944, when the Associated Press agent in Albany received information about an earthquake in northern New York. “Anybody killed?” he asked. When informed no one had been hurt, he showed little interest.
Likewise, when the state geologist in Albany was notified that a whole lotta shakin’ was goin’ on, he said, “There is no need to be alarmed. It is improbable they [the quakes] will be anything but quite small.” You win some, you lose some. In this case, both the reporter and geologist lost―big-time. They missed the call on what still stands as the most destructive earthquake in New York State history. » Continue Reading.
This Thursday, August 16 beginning at 1:30 PM there will be a public tour of the river restoration project now taking place along the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene Valley.
The tour will be at Rivermede Farm. For more information, contact Dave Reckahn of the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, 518-962-8225, firstname.lastname@example.org, Corrie Miller at the Ausable River Association, email@example.com or Dan Plumley at Adirondack Wild’s regional office in Keene, firstname.lastname@example.org. » Continue Reading.
The early break up of ice on ponds, lakes and marshes, along with a very healthy flow of water in streams and rivers, has made conditions far better for fishing this April than in recent years. Humans, however, are not the only creatures that prowl the banks of remote streams, or visit the shores of backcountry ponds, in an attempt to snag a small brook trout. Throughout the Adirondacks, there are numerous forms of life that are well adapted for catching fish, and among the most colorful and noisy is the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon).
With its large head, long, thick bill, jagged crest, and white band around its neck, the kingfisher provides a silhouette that is easily recognized. However, it is not the unique appearance of this stout bird that initially draws attention to its presence. Most anglers and individuals that simply spend time outdoors commonly become aware that a kingfisher is in the immediate area by noting its distinct rattling call. » Continue Reading.
The winter of 2011-2012 was the fourth warmest of the past 117 winters in the contiguous United States according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The seasonal average temperature (December, January and February) was 36.8 degrees, almost four degrees above the 20th century average.
That probably doesn’t surprise Dr. Ed Landing, New York State paleontologist and curator of paleontology at the New York State Museum. His new research however, suggests that high sea levels leading to “global hyperwarming” will be a more important factor than carbon dioxide levels in future climate change. Landing has recently published his findings in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.
Since the middle 1800s scientists have considered high carbon dioxide levels to be a greenhouse gas and a driver of higher global temperatures. However, Landing’s study of the rock succession in New York state shows that periodic extreme temperatures, with oceans reaching 100 F, occurred within “greenhouse” intervals. He terms these “global hyperwarming” times, and shows that they correspond to intervals of very high sea-levels.
As sea levels rise, Landing’s research suggests that with the predicted melting of polar ice caps, the continents will reflect less sun light back to space and less reflective shallow seas will store heat and warm as they overlap the land. Warming seas will rapidly work to increase global temperatures and heat the world ocean. This leads to a feedback that further expands ocean volume, with heating, and further accelerates both global warming and sea-level rise. In the course of this feedback, marine water circulation and oxygenation fall due in part to the fact that hot waters hold less oxygen.
Landing first recognized the imprint of “global hyperwarming” in 520 to 440 million-year-old, shallow to deep-water rocks in eastern New York and from other information received on localities worldwide. This time interval shows nine intervals of extreme sea-levels that covered much of North America and other ancient continents. In all cases, strong sea-level rises, which sometimes drove marine shorelines into the upper Midwest, are accompanied by the spread of hot, low oxygen marine water largely devoid of animal life down into the deep sea and across the continents.
Landing’s study may help predict the future. A 300-foot sea-level rise, which would result from melting the Greenland and Antarctica ice caps, is as great as the ancient sea-level rises documented by Landing and other scientists 520 to 460 million years ago. This sea-level rise would also lead to a warming and expansion of the ocean waters resulting in a rise of shorelines to 500 feet above present, basically covering the non-mountainous U.S. to northern Wisconsin. Even worse, in the case of New York, the Earth’s rotation would force a rise of the west Atlantic to 650 feet above present sea levels.
The full article on Landing’s research is online. While working at the State Museum since 1981, Landing has authored six books, 13 New York State Museum bulletins, 200 articles and field trip guides and has received more than a dozen competitive grants. In 2009 he was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).
Earlier this summer close observers noticed a small white soul patch etched on the southern (Lake Placid) face of Whiteface Mountain. Tropical storm Irene embellished it into a brilliant, narrow v-shaped slide. Whiteface mountain today (and ever after) is showing a bit more of the anorthosite that gave it its name.
The day after Hurricane Irene drenched the Adirondacks, state forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks and saw so many new debris slides that he lost count of them.
Since then reports and photos of new slides—some taken from the air—have been trickling in. A guy who goes by the nickname of Mudrat has started compiling a list on Adirondack High Peaks Forums. In his first post, he listed sixteen that had been created or expanded by the storm, but there probably are many more. The large slide depicted above, on the north side of Saddleback Mountain, was among those on Mudrat’s list. Brendan Wiltse, who took the photo, climbed it the day after storm before the state Department of Environmental Conservation closed the High Peaks Wilderness. He named the slide Catastrophic Chaos.
Now that DEC has reopened most of the trails in the Wilderness Area, many hikers will be eager to climb the new slides (and in winter, they will get skied). DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department is not prohibiting people from hiking on the slides, but he warned that debris on some slides is unstable.
It’s been estimated that that there are more than four hundred slide scars in the Adirondacks. They are most common in the High Peaks region, where soils are thin and slopes are steep.
Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist, said debris slides occur when heavy rains saturate the soil to the point where it starts slipping downward. “Once it starts moving, it starts accelerating,” he said, “and then it rockets down the slope”—taking trees and other vegetation with it.
Since the soils remain wet from Irene, he said, the High Peaks may see more slides if another storm hits, even one less powerful than Irene, which dumped about ten inches of rain.
If a slide strips a slope clean to the bedrock, he said, it can take centuries for vegetation to grow back. First, lichens cling to the bare rock, followed by moss. These pioneers trap bits of organic debris that decompose to form soil. Eventually, small seedlings take root, which in turn trap more debris. If rubble or dirt remain on the slide, the process is speeded up.
Kozlowski, who works for the New York State Museum, said debris slides are very different from the slow-motion mudslide discovered on the side of Little Porter Mountain in Keene this spring.
In that case, some eighty-two acres are slowly creeping down the mountain. The mudslide has destroyed, damaged, or imperiled a number of houses in the Adrian’s Acres subdivision.
The soil in the vicinity of the mudslide has been measured up to 250 feet deep, whereas the soil where debris slides takes place may be only a few yards deep. The speed of the mudslide on Little Porter—or whether it continues at all—depends on the depth of groundwater, Kozlowski said.
Kozlowski said the groundwater depth has dropped six feet since July. Right after Irene, it rose two feet. In the following days, it went up another half-inch. “What we’re anticipating is that the water levels will keep rising,” he said.
At its peak, the mudslide moved up to two feet a day. Although its movement is now “imperceptible,” Kozlowski said, if the groundwater reaches a certain level, the slide could speed up again. But he doesn’t know for sure what that level is.
“If the water levels recover in the in the four-to-six-foot range, things might start happening,” he said.
Click here to read a detailed account of the Keene mudslide on the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine’s website.
Photo of Saddleback slide by Brendan Wiltse.
Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer. He has been writing about the aftermath of Irene on his Outtakes blog and here at the Adirondack Almanack.
Dozens of new landslides have been reported in the High Peaks following heavy rains and winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene which reached the Eastern Adirondacks as a Tropical Storm on Sunday.
Regular Alamanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Formally two adjoining scars, Angel Slide is a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers named in honor of Toma Vracarich who was killed in an avalanche there in 2000. The slide now includes a third route, longer than the rest.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation District (DEC) Forester Kris Alberga flew over the High Peaks on Monday afternoon, August 28, 2011, and reported additional new slides on the Basin, Haystack, Upper and Lower Wolf Jaw, in the Dix Range and on Giant Mountain. “I lost track after a while,” he said in a widely circulated e-mail. DEC later reported that Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Macomb, and Cascade also have new or expanded slides.
Mount Colden appears to have been heavily affected by new slides to the North and at the Trap Dyke. “The Trap Dike on Colden is dramatically different,” Drew Haas of Jay reported in an e-mail to the Almanack after an overflight Wednesday afternoon, “it has truly been gutted.” There was a massive avalanche at the Colden Trap Dyke this past winter.
Haas is a frequent backcountry slide skier and author of The Adirondack Slide Guide. He confirmed that there are dozens of new slides varying in width and length, some several miles long. “[There are] some very long new slides on The Wolfjaws and Saddleback in the Johns Brook drainage,” Haas noted. He said he didn’t see the Seward or Santanoni Ranges, but his pilot told him there was “nothing significant over that way.”
Published in 2006, the Adirondack Slide Guide includes aerial photos of more than 70 Adirondack landslide areas. When I asked Haas if he now had plans to update the guide he said: “No current plans but this could be a tipping point with all this new terrain – we’ll see.”
Photos: Above, Saddleback Mountain slides in 2006 and today; Middle, the new slide on Wright Peak from Marcy Dam (Phil Brown photo); Below, Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, Gothics and Saddleback in a photo taken today. Photos courtesy Drew Haas.
For more than a month, millions of tons of earth and millions of dollars in property value have been inching down a Keene Valley mountainside. As 82 acres of trees and homes continue to break loose, a state geologist says other Adirondack slopes could fail.
The slow-moving landslide on the side of Little Porter Mountain is unnerving residents in the town of Keene, which includes the hamlets of Keene and Keene Valley. The year-round population of 1,000 is nearly doubled in summer by wealthy seasonal residents, many who live upslope for the lofty views of the High Peaks.
Four half-million-dollar houses at the top of the slide have been affected—pried wholly from their foundations or partially destabilized—and at least one vacation home appears to be in its path below. The value of the land in motion is expected to be reduced from about $3 million to zero, while sales of similar properties are thrown into limbo. Supervisor Bill Ferebee said the town has begun to seek emergency state reimbursement to help make up anticipated losses in property tax.
Andrew Kozlowski, associate state geologist with the New York State Museum, says the slide is the largest in state history. It’s nothing like the quick tumble of trees and thin humus familiar on high Adirondack terrain. This one started as a subtle shift below 2,000 feet on a 25–35 degree slope. It was triggered by the melting of deep snowpack compounded by more than a foot of rain in April and May. The slide does not seem to pose a risk to human life, but it is reactivated when new rains slip into soil cracks that are growing wider every day. Because it’s logistically difficult to drill borings in shifting soils to measure their depth, Kozlowski can’t estimate when the mass will stop moving; he says it could be months or years.
A dirt road runs parallel to the top of the landslide. Keene residents are questioning whether mountainside building is responsible for altering drainage patterns. “Does the development help? Probably not. Was it the actual cause? Probably not,” Kozlowski said.
There were pre-existing conditions, he explained. He detected on the site signs of a landslide hundreds or thousands of years ago. At the end of the last ice age, Keene Valley was submerged by a glacial lake, and deep sand on the hillsides is evidence of 12,000-year-old beaches.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imagery collected by aerial survey can provide high-resolution digital images and help identify shifty soils, he said. Eight New York counties have collected LiDAR data but none in northern New York, which has the state’s steepest topography. Keene Supervisor Ferebee said aerial images could be useful to all towns in Essex County, and he is exploring how the county might cover the $150,000 cost.
Residents are also concerned about the future of homes on other Keene mountainsides. “There is danger of this happening elsewhere,” Kozlowski told a group of two dozen citizens who gathered at the community’s K–12 school earlier this month. “Will it happen on this scale? We don’t know.”
Real Estate and Rain
Annual rainfall in the Lake Champlain watershed is three inches greater on average than it was during the mid 20th century, when the first houses were built on the side of Little Porter Mountain, according to United States Historical Climatology Network data. A range of climate models predict the Champlain Basin could receive 4 to 6 inches more precipitation a year by the end of this century, with heavy storms becoming more frequent, according to a 2010 report by The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack and Vermont chapters.
The Little Porter slide has suddenly become an unforeseen example of something other Adirondack mountain communities must consider in a potentially wetter future.
“Throughout the Adirondacks there is going to be a lot more concern about this now,” said Martha Lee Owen, who owns vacant land on the failed slope. She is a real-estate broker whose father, Adrian Edmonds, lived at the base of Little Porter and pioneered homebuilding on Keene’s mountainsides. “He’d be just heartbroken,” she said. “It’s just terrible that it’s affected so many homeowners.”
Owen said it never occurred to her to recommend that potential buyers hire a geologist to evaluate slope stability, but she will recommend it now. She would also like to see LiDAR data collected for Essex County. “Of course it’s a huge concern to me in terms of selling properties, not just my own but selling any properties,” she said. “So far buyers aren’t asking a lot of questions, although everyone is just sort of shocked by this. You have to get used to it before you take it all in.”
Jane Bickford, a Saranac Lake resident who has a summer home beneath and — she hopes — outside the projected path of the slide, said the mountain-climbing mecca of Keene Valley is more than an investment to people who own property there. “The piece that’s important is, Can we keep living there?” she said. “The financials are pretty terrible but Keene Valley represents to people a touchstone. It’s where my kids grew up and where they are bringing their own kids up. This is where children’s values are developed. To the people who go to Keene Valley it’s not just a house. It’s a place where families get together and where bonding happens.”
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