The weather on Memorial Day turned out to be perfect in the Adirondacks. What a change a day makes. Saturday and Sunday brought lots of rain down low and lots of snow above 2500’. Monday was sunny all day and warmed to the mid 60’s in Keene Valley by early afternoon.
It didn’t take me too long to decide where to spend the day. Big Slide Mountain is the only ADK High Peak I hadn’t been on in the last two years, and it was a perfect peak to head for in snowy conditions. I wasn’t sure how tough the trail conditions would be, and I knew at least we’d get to the Brothers which offer lots of open rock and great views. Additionally our dog Rev hadn’t been up Big Slide yet so if we reached the summit it would be high peak # 33 for her.
I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get a parking spot at “the Garden”, the popular trailhead in the area. Arriving at about 8:30 AM on a holiday in perfect weather, I thought our chances would not be good. Much to my surprise, the lot was less than half full. Perhaps the snow up high was scaring people away.
Leesa, Rev and I signed in and were on the trail about 8:40. The trail for the first ¾ of a mile was in perfect shape. We soon came across a happy 4 person trail crew; three men and one woman cleaning drainage bars and clearing blowdown. They said this would be their biggest trail day of the season and they were in festive spirits. When I came across the young woman, she was swinging an ax while wearing a blue sparkle dress. They intended to go all the way up the Big Slide Trail, then down to the Johns Brook Valley and up the Phelps Trail to Marcy. That would be quite a day for trail work in snow conditions. They gave us permission to take their pictures and post them. Our thanks to them for their tireless work!
|And the trail crew award goes to...|
|This crew did great work|
|... and they had fun doing it|
Soon after we passed them, the trail began to get wet. At the First Brother, we saw our first glimpse of snow. We stopped on the open rock and had a snack. We could see the whole Great Range coated in snow. Although only the slides looked white, we knew the ground was also covered in snow. It was just hidden by the leaves and greenery!
|Our first sign of snow, a little below the 1st Brother|
|A nice place to stay dry if need be, just before 1st Brother|
The ground was covered in snow by the time we reached the 2ndBrother. Leesa put on her Microspikes. I stayed in bare boots all day. At the 3rd Brother, there was about 6” of snow on the ground. Several groups were hiking in sneakers, and it was at this point where most of the unprepared folks were turning around.
Leaving the 3rd brother, we dropped down into the col and the snow (and water) began to get deeper. In some spots to was impossible to avoid walking in a foot of water, snow and slush.
At one point we had to crawl under some blowdown (we were ahead of the trail crew at that point). Fortunately there wasn’t any water there.
|The final push on to Big Slid|
We did manage to make it to the top of Big Slide. There was probably a little over a foot of snow. Not nearly as much as some of the nearby peaks, but that was a good thing. A foot was enough.
We were treated to bluebird skies and just fantastic views. The last time I was on Big Slide in February 2010, I arrived on the summit and 2 minutes later fog blew in and I couldn't see a thing, but on this day it was just perfect.
|Our reward... perfect visibility. Giant, RPR, Nippletop, Hough, the great range and the Macs, all within view|
Going back down was almost like being at Water Slide World in the winter. It was tricky to stay upright. Not a good day to butt slide. We just went slow and easy. We knew that once we were back to 2nd Brother it be like hiking in summertime. How cool to have a foot of snow up high and warm dry ground halfway down.
We picked the right mountain on this day. I heard from other hikers who struggled on summits with much deeper snow and in many cases they couldn't make it. Big Slide was just right. We were happy with our day. Now on with summer!
|Our route shown in blue|
|a closer look (click to enlarge)|
Hike Distance: 7.8 miles
Hike Time: 7 hours, including stops
Total Vertical Gain: ~ 3000'