Thomas Edison once said, “A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.”
I know he was not talking about climbing slides in the Adirondacks, and actually, our summit bid was wholly successful, and we had a great day, but his quote holds the truth.
We set out to climb Giant Mountain on the Bottle Slide. I’ve ascended Giant via Eagle in the past, and for several reasons on this trip decided to climb Bottle. Among the reasons were that Bottle is reportedly somewhat easier than Eagle; I’ve never done Bottle before, my son has never been out on slides, and I did not want to bring the added gear that I feel is prudent to have on Eagle. To me, all good reasons.
We planned our trip, read other climber’s reports, and scoured maps looking at the approach. The west face of Giant is scared with landslides. Almost any stream bed you follow will lead to the drainage of one of these slides, and many climber reports ending up on slides that they did not intend to be on; we are now a part of that club.
But on this day, our miss was so far off; I’m embarrassed to write about it. However, I write about our great trips that go off without a hitch. I’ll write about this one, one that we will remember. The strange thing about climbs like this is that it leaves us longing to go back and “make things right.”
A Bad Approach
Our climb to the bushwhack point on the Roaring Brook Trail was easy, a simple 1300′ climb on the trail and the exit point at 2600′ marked with a 2′ cairn which is hard to miss.
Leaving the marked trail, we followed the herd path, which took us down a hill to Roaring Brook that we crossed and then crossed a small rise in land separating Roaring Brook with this other drainage. We began to ascend the little drainage, which was well covered by trees. As we climbed, the rise to our right was getting larger.
Looking back, I realized I should have brought a photo of the west face of Giant. I started to doubt if we were, in fact, in the correct drainage or if we needed to be on the opposite side of the rising ridge. Having a photo of the west face would have confirmed that we were on course!
George Eliot wrote in her classic book Adam Bede, “Uncomfortable thoughts must be got rid of by good intentions for the future.”
My thoughts were simple: I didn’t know if we were heading in the right direction, and I was uncomfortable. So we hopped over the rise and dropped back in the other drainage. Feeling better, we moved upward. This drainage was more open, had more rubble, and finally “felt” like the right drainage.
However, some signs (which I ignored) would tell us a different story. Drainages were entering from our right. Where did these lead? Maybe slides on the south side of the Cirque? I made a mild mental note of them and kept climbing. We made it to the extensive rubble and could see the slide walls above us. It was not Bottle but the north section of Eagle. Hmm, so much for Mary Ann Evans (aka. George Eliot)!
A Poor Result?
Above the rubble, we encountered the steep rock that will test many folks. Not part of the slide proper, it is a test of whether you’ll do okay on Eagle. If you feel shaky here, you’ll be very nervous on Eagle.
My unease returned. I remembered this spot. Could we be heading to Eagle? As we exited the drainage and sat at the bottom of the slide, we find that we are at the bottom of Eagle.
We decided to stop and sit and plan our next move. We came ready to climb Bottle, not Eagle. We check out the slide and find fair amounts of water on it as it had rained in previous days.
We had started late, 11:00 am from the trailhead, so we understood that our next question would be how to get on the summit in a timely fashion and with the most certainty? We decided to move to the Eagle’s right, follow the slide’s border, and exit into the forest when it became impractical to stay on or near the open rock. A few hundred feet below the ridge between Tulip and Eagle, we escaped and broke into the woods.
I’ve learned all decisions are relative. This one was whether to stay on the steep damp slide or climb in the wall of spruce? Hmm. Fall or get ripped? On this day, we chose ripped. The spruce did not disappoint. We battled for every inch of ground. We picked our way gently to minimize the impact on this fragile high elevation forest. The forest did not return the favor as to say how dare you to enter this place.
Our legs would show that the spruce took its pound of flesh as we reached the trail and could assess its damage. However, there was astonishing beauty even in this harsh environment, one we could not have experienced on the slide.
A Wonderful Finish
Finally, with great joy, we reached the ridge and trail below the summit. After a break of a few minutes, we walked the path to the summit and enjoyed its beauty. The sun in the west was sending beams of light over the surrounding peaks, and the Great Range was magnificent.
After eating, taking pictures, and enjoying the final moments at this great place, we descend into the sunset and return to the trailhead.
My son will now have to write his letter to the historian of the 46ers and give his testimony of this day. I know one thing; it’s one he’ll remember, I know I will.
Posts done in collaboration by Chris and Scott