One Year and Seven High Peaks Later...

Looking down to Keene Valley

Big Slide Mountain (4240 ft) (27th Highest Peak in ADKs)

Difficulty: Moderately Steep
Date of Summit: 10/18/2008
Total Distance Hiked: 9.5 miles
Trip Time: 7 hrs
Ascent: 2800 ft
Temperature: High 40's to Low 50's

It's officially been one year since my first Adirondack hike. A year ago (almost to the day), Martin Heintzelman and I summitted Moose & McKenzie Mountains, which were covered in snow. While there were bets as to whether we'd find snow atop the mountain on this trip, we only spotted ice in a few of the higher regions of the trail. Snow or no snow, Big Slide Mountain was definitely one of the more majestic climbs I've done to date in the park. The fall weather was perfect, the views numerous and constant throughout the ascent, and the morale of the group was high and hopeful.

Peaceful Brook on the Big Slide/Third Brother col

I was invited to accompany Martin Heintzelman and his friend, Greg Peter (who had flown up from Richmond, VA to speak to Martin's MBA students), on a hike in the park. Martin and Greg have been friends since high school, so their hiking history is as long and full of stories as their friendship. While they've backpacked in numerous parks and trails around the country, this was Greg's very first Adirondack High Peak. We arrived in Keene Valley around 10am, ready to hit the trail. As is custom for hikers in Keene Valley, we had planned to park our vehicle near the trailhead, at a parking lot titled "The Garden", that was managed by the town of Keene. Although I had heard stories about the Garden filling up quickly, we were quite suprised to find that it was completely full upon arrival. We had no choice but to park a few miles away at the Marcy Airfield and pay to take a shuttle bus back to the Garden & trailhead.

Just after the First Brother

By the time we finally signed the trail ledger and set foot on the trail, it was roughly 10:30am. Even though we were already a bit behind schedule, it felt absolutely wonderful to be yet again in the thick of nature, where one's mind could wander at the same pace as one's legs and eyes. The climb through the forest was moderate at first, with it picking up in grade as we neared the first of the three Brothers. The Brothers are a series of "mini-mountains" that lead up to the fourth peak beyond the set, which was our final destination - Big Slide Mountain. This hike will forever stand out in my memory, due to the constant view of the Keene Valley region and the Great Range accompanying my left side as I climbed. (The Great Range is my ultimate dream - You climb SEVEN HIGH PEAKS in a 14.5 mile hike, ending at the highest peak in the park (and in New York State), Mount Marcy. Someday it will happen. Someday...)

Martin & Greg, on the steep trail

Over the course of the next three or four hours, we slowly made our way up the spine of The Brothers, eventually finding ourselves in the col between the Third Brother and Big Slide. Just as with previous hikes in the park, we discovered quickly that although the book states that it is 9.5 miles, it was obvious that the distance is based on the map itself - measured as if the trail was flat. When one adds roughly 6,000 feet of elevation change to that as well, a 9.5 mile walk that takes 7 hours starts to make a bit more sense.

Dave, Martin, & Greg atop Big Slide (end of the Great Range in the bkgd)

When we reached the top of Big Slide, we were greeted by a small party of fellow hikers who also took advantage of the perfect weather for a high peak climb. At any given time, there was roughly 10-15 other hikers atop Big Slides relatively small summit, making it feel a bit cramped (but I must say that I do enjoy chatting up the veteran hikers, as they're able to point and label all of the peaks in the distance for me!). We spent roughly 15 minutes atop Big Slide, and it was off to the races again, for we knew that we were running far behind our schedule already, and we now had to consider how much sunlight was left (which meant warmth) so that we could finish the trip in a relatively comfortable (and safe) manner.

Marcy (#1), Colden (#11), and Algonquin (#2) filling the horizon

The descent was a long one. We decided to take a different and longer route on the way down, which dropped 2,000 feet in just over two miles. We then followed Johns Brook along a ledge for the final 3 miles. This route was well worth it though, as it was an extremely peaceful meander through the woods, where you could hear the water rushing through Johns Brook a few hundred feet below. I'm not sure if it was the sense of peace that this area emitted or our tired bodies rationing their energy reserves, but we walked for a few hours without saying a word to one another - it was quite wonderful to spend the final leg of the hike in self-reflection and silence. This was definitely a hike to remember. It was Greg's first high peak, and it was without a doubt one of the more beautiful and visually rich ascents I've done so far. This is one hike that I would do again in a heartbeat - for if nothing else but to stare at that Great Range, because daydreaming about its conquest will never get old.

A View of Giant Mountain (perhaps the next high peak to tackle?)