After hiking along the fantastic crest of the Second Brother, the trail dropped down into a small forest notch between it and the highest Third Brother. The trail then climbed quite steeply through a number of nice open ledges, before arriving at an open lookout point atop the highest Brother. From here we can look back and down onto the humpbacked from of the Second Brother, along with a beautiful expansive view back down to Keene Valley and the prominent form of Giant Mountain on the far side. Spectacular view.
Arriving on the 3rd (highest) Brother
Transitioning to the forest
Immediately beyond the Third Brother's lookout, the trail dove into thick, forest - primarily coniferous, and with boughs heavy with many inches of fresh snow. It was all very magical looking but makes passage a little bit brushy and snow, as you have to push your way through a rather narrow tunnel through the trees. There were a couple of limited lookouts off to the west and the Great Range along here, but soon even those were gone, and we were in the forest for an extended stretch.
A tunnel through wonderland
The trail proceeded on the level for a short distance before beginning another ascent, remaining entirely in forest, until we reached a forested 3700-foot high bump. There's a limited lookout to Big Slide itself from here - our very first look at the summit - and it well worth stopping to have a look here. Big Slide is very distinctive from this angle, and the reason it is named Big Slide is also very apparent from here. The summit is a very asymmetrical bump with a very steep and bare-rock southern face.
From the limited-viewpoint subsummit, the trail descended moderately steeply as it made its way towards the base of Big Slide's summit. The packed trail soon became much less distinct, and in places we can see that other hikers not wearing snowshoes had gotten off-track and had started to post-hole badly. I myself had long ago (since Second Brother) switched into snowshoes, but Gino and Hatko were being a bit more stubborn about it. This section, with areas of random post-holes and a poor snowshoe track, was finally enough to convince them to start wearing them. With all four of us thus properly clad, we were able to continue with better forward progress and less effort (and also we were being better trail citizens by helping beat out a proper track).
Finally time for all-snowshoes
The snowpack up here today was impressively thick for the Adirondacks - probably five to eight feet in most places and far deeper in specific spots. It certainly has been a good snow year (after a slow start).
By now the trail had reached the low point after the 3700-foot bump and we had started climbing again. We were nearing the summit cone of Big Slide and that meant the side trail up from Johns Brook Valley would soon be coming into view.
Big Slide summit junction
We reached the junction with the trail to the summit shortly after 12 noon. We didn't pause much here, opting instead to make the final push to the summit. The trail immediately became much steeper, rising about 300 feet in only 0.3 miles (0.5 kilometres). In non-winter seasons this section of trail actually has some ladders, but today, with the nice thick snowpack, the ladders were actually completely buried. This section of trail is also prone to being icy, but again, all was nice firm clean snow, and the snowshoes bit nicely in and allowed us an easy (if strenuous) ascent. Soon we were standing at a mid-point lookout with Big Slide's big slide directly in front of us.
A final few minutes of steep ascent brought us to the half-forested summit. We congratulated Brian on his successful winter 46R ascent number twenty-five. Only twenty-one peaks left.
Normally I'm a little less satisfied with a summit that is not fully open, but today I actually was rather happy about it. The scrubby fir trees on the northern aspect of the summit served to nicely block out that chilly, gusty wind, and the warm pre-spring sun did a great job turning the summit into a rather pleasant and hospitable place.
We sat down for a well-earned lunch on the summit, taking in the great views as we did so.
The summit of Big Slide is one of the best places in all of the Adirondacks to take in the biggest and most complex sequence of its mountains: the so-called Great Range. This is a long ridgeline of peaks, stretching from Keene Valley in the east all the way to Mount Marcy in the west. If you include Marcy (which is sort of in the Great Range, but not exactly), then this range comprises eight of the Adirondack's 46 peaks over 4000 feet in elevation.
I often neglect to take nice closeup shots of summits that I can then use for a variety of future needs, so after eating I took out my longer zoom and carefully took closeup shots of all of the visible prominent peaks. There's quite a large number of them visible from Big Slide's summit: Giant, Rocky Peak, Dix, Nippletop, Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, Marcy, Tabletop, Colden, Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright.