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Proceed with caution when taking on a slide

June 15, 2019
By SPENCER MORRISSEY - Outdoors Columnist (adkpeaksurvey@gmail.com) , Lake Placid News

The Adirondacks is becoming quite well-known for its slides and those using those slides to access the summit of many of the High Peaks have multiplied.

Is this good? Is this bad?

It all depends on who you ask and the types of unnecessary risks that one takes while in pursuit.

Article Photos


Corenne Black negotiates a steep section of the Wilmington slide.
Provided photo — Spencer Morrissey

Before Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, hikers used slides on a regular basis to access the High Peaks. After Irene dumped 7.5 inches of rain, a couple dozen more slides were created and many of the existing slides were made bigger.

This made slide climbing more popular and attracted more newcomers to the sport.

I can raise my hand for that. I love slides, and always have. They provide different challenges and bring a new aspect for the peaks. With that being said, though, I also respect them and the unforeseen circumstances they can place a climber or hiker in.

When I first started climbing slides, I found myself in a very scary instance on the Eagle Slide, located on the side of Giant Mountain. I pushed my limits, and it could have easily turned a scenic experience into a much more dramatic one.

The Eagle Slide was created as a set of fingers or feathers as they are referred to. We started out on a less aggressive feather, but I soon found myself slightly moving too far out onto the rock face and at the base of a slope that was much steeper than anticipated.

I was still a bit green to slide climbing, but had a half-dozen easier ones under my belt at the time so I felt very comfortable with the exposure. However, the rock slab was a bit wet and traction was not optimal for my boots which were simple trail shoes.

Since you are reading this, you can see I made it. However, that was the scare that instilled two things in me: 1) Keep focused and be aware of your surroundings. 2) Purchase a pair of approach shoes for better traction.

I still climb slides and even guide visitors up them, but my approach is not as casual as it used to be. I recommend that you take that same approach.

Slides are created by ground water under the soil that causes a layer of lubrication that separates the soil and tree roots from the rock and begins the downward motion of earth. Ground water is still there above the slide, so many of the slides are wet and still lubricate the rocks.

This constant stream of water, if gentle enough, can cause the rocks to be very slippery and eventually grow a layer of "Adirondack red slime." This slime can be as slippery as ice, and in many cases much more dangerous because it often goes unnoticed until you are lying in it and cursing.

If slide climbing is on your plate, I recommend you try a less aggressive slide with a mellower grade and friendly conditions. Do your research and slowly work your way up to the tougher ones. Remember to keep focused on your surroundings, even while you are taking photos of the views and the experience.

Pick up a pair of either rock climbing shoes or approach shoes. Approach shoes are more comfortable for longer periods of time and will increase your traction immensely. Regular hiking boots, and especially backpacking boots, have harder rubber on the sole, which limits traction and the smearing effect that a climbing rubber has. Protect yourself, choose the right rubber!

A few more things to keep in mind:

1. Slides don't typically reach a trail or a summit. There is usually a section of very thick bushwhacking from the top of the slide to the summit of a mountain or nearest trail.

2. Slides don't always start from along a trail. You may need to navigate difficult terrain to reach them. If you are not good or experienced in land navigation, you should get experience or take a course in GPS and/or map and compass.

3. Slide climbing is a dangerous sport. As soon as you step foot on course to climb one, the inherent dangers increase. Be aware of this and never go alone. And for Pete's sake, carry emergency and first-aid equipment - don't be a Pete.

4. Many slides don't require the use of ropes, harnesses and anchors. But by all means, if it makes you feel better, use them. If you don't use them, don't do something where you should.

5. There is often loose debris on the slides, so be considerate of those behind you and don't start your own land slide. If you start a rock tumbling down toward someone, don't just watch it bounce off their shin, yell something to get their attention. "ROCK!!!"

6. It is much harder and much more dangerous to down climb a slide due to direction of your momentum. You should avoid the descent of a slide if you can, or in the least lower your center of gravity. Don't be too proud to do a crab walk.

7. It's not a race! If it is, you should seriously talk to the race coordinator.

Slides are building popularity and are an excellent way to see the back-country, but they should always be treated with respect and with caution.

There is no better time to go exploring, but please remember to tell someone where you will be exploring. If you are interested in climbing a slide and summiting a High Peak, but wish to have guidance on your first couple, seek out a local mountain guide. You can learn a lot from their expertise.

 
 
 

 

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