Looking to continue our string of Great Range / Solstice prep hikes, I cast around (in my mind) for something that would be a nice compliment to the various outings of the last few months. Since the last hike
had been long and relatively short on views, I wanted something shorter and more interesting. For whatever reason, I almost immediately throught of climbing a slide route. Within that category, two options also quickly came to mind: the slide on Grace Peak (formerly East Dix) along with a loop over Dix, and the granddady of ADK slide climbs - the Trap Dike on Mt Colden.
I chose the latter for two reasons: one, I wanted to explore the dike's state after 2011's huge landslide came down through it. Now, it is true that I had climbed the Dike and new slide in 2014, but that was in late winter, and most everything had been buried deep under snow and ice. I wanted to see what the terrain was like underneath. The second reason I chose the Dike over the Grace slide + Dix Loop was that it was a shorter outing.
ADK HP VC
The weather forecast looked dry but not ideal for our outing (mostly cloudy trending to overcast, with chance of showers late). However, upon arriving at the Adirondack High Peaks visitor center, there was only a high thin overcast and the sun was shining through it fairly easily. It was also quite cool and not too humid - a nice change from recent conditions.
We had arrived a bit later than expected (an intense police manhunt for two escaped murderers from a nearby prison had required us to make some last minute driving detours), but we still managed to get boots on the path before 8am. Despite the warnings of overly muddy trails, we found the main trail to Marcy Dam to be in very good shape, with very little in the way of actual mud. We made excellent time, covering the distance in about forty minutes.
Another twenty or so minutes of quick hiking brought us to Avalanche Junction. This was the split-off point for the beginning of the "loop" part of our day. We'd head right here, up through Avalanche Pass and around Avalanche Lake to the base of the Trap Dike. Once on top of Colden, we would hike north, down to Lake Arnold, and return via the Lake Arnold trail to Avalanche Junction once again.
Continuing (with excellent pace), we climbed up the trail to Avalanche Pass, through the remnants of the 1999 Floyd slide, underneath dark and shady cliffs, and on down to the upper end of Avalanche Lake, where we paused for a quick snack break and to enjoy the iconic view of acres of bedrock plunging down into the lake. Surprisingly, happily, and unlike two weeks before, the day was cool, breezy, and there were remarkably small numbers of mosquitoes and/or black flies.
During recent years, I've mostly come through Avalanche Pass in the winter, when it is possible to hike straight across the frozen lake. In summer, however, progress is not quite so simple. The trailed route winds through a huge boulder field along the right-hand edge of the lake (with the assistance of short ladders and bridges, but it is still more tedious than a straight flat walk). The best part of this lakeside stretch are the suspended boardwalk sections known as the "Hitch-up Matildas". Not only are they fun in their own right, they also provide a perfect view straight up into the lower part of the Trap Dike, directly across the lake.
Working way around Av Lake
This was my first close-up view of the Trap Dike in the summer since the 2011 landslide. That landslide, caused by Hurricance Irene, tore a huge strip of vegetated scrub off of the upper flanks of Mt Colden, resulting in the new landslide scar. That huge strip of land slid all the way down into Avalanche lake, and it did so by funnelling through the Trap Dike, and thoroughly scouring it of vegetation. Although it had been somewhat apparent in winter, seeing it now in summer more clearly revealed how bare it now looked.
To get to the base of the Trap Dike in summer, you are forced to travel all the way to the lower end of Avalanche Lake, then take a faint herdpath route back along the other side to the base of the Dike. Depending on water levels in the lake, you can attempt to stay along the shore of the lake. The water level seemed a bit too high to do the lakeshore approach, so we thrashed and bushwhacked a bit before emerging into the wasteland of the debris fan at the base of the dike.
Even though a few years had now passed since the 2011 landslide event, it still looked fairly fresh. A minute or two of picking our way around the debris and boulders of the fan brought us to the base of the Trap Dike.