After our first day back in two years yesterday our legs were feeling the toll of the ascent the day before. We decided on a shorter, one peak hike that I needed for my winter list: Big Slide. We drove from Keene where we were staying over to Keene Valley to start from the parking lot and hike up over the 3 brothers to the summit.
Today our group of 4 was able to start at the same time and hike together after being separated yesterday with our Covid testing appointments. The last time I hiked Big Slide was back in October of 2011 when my husband Glenn and I waded through hip deep snow and crawled to the summit after starting in the parking lot on wet leaves. Surely this official winter ascent would be easier. We would find out!
Even though today was about bagging another winter peak, it was more about our friend Ivan. At 76, he wasn't sure he still had it in him to do a mountain. He had a knee replaced in 2019, and hadn't been back to the 'dacks since. He started with us up the Brothers, and we thought if he had to turn around then at least he would have been about to have a nice hike with views. The weather today was above freezing and we were down to our baselayers in no time. We hit the first brother and realized our pace was slow, but with the daylight available in March, the warm temperatures and the fact that Ivan was trying to push himself we allowed him to continue to set the pace. After the third brother it was apparent that this pace was going to really slow us down, Ivan gave Deb and I a blessing to run ahead to tag the summit and return to the junction that marked the descent down to the JBL area.
Deb and I took off and ran up the summit which had just freshly been slid down by three women we had just passed. We dug the crampons of our snowshoes in and felt our heart rates increase as we stepped over the area that normally has a ladder (it was buried!). We got to the summit eager to see the furry summit steward (pine marten), but didn't want to linger too long as we wanted to head back down to see how Ivan was doing. We were getting worried he had pushed himself a bit too much and might need assistance getting back down. We downed some water and took a few photos and took off without even sitting down.
Unfortunately after we slid on our bums down from the summit we arrived at the junction to see that no one had gone down to JBL yet. So we headed back to the 3rd brother and within a couple minutes saw Ivan and Paul huffing their way up. They made it! We took a long lunch break at the junction and Ivan was elated that for the next while it was downhill. The downhill was indeed less energy intensive for sure but did cross a creek multiple times that had some ice bridges that were failing or about to fail. By the time we got down to John's Brook, there was little sign of the 10" of snow that fell 3 days before. In fact there was barely any snow left. We kept our snowshoes on until the parking lot though as they were beneficial most of the way. Ivan hit the wall on the way out so on a break I played one of his favourite tunes Irish Rover which we sang out loud which seemed to lift his spirits and give him a boost to finish the home stretch.
I am so impressed with the mental fortitude of Ivan on this day. For someone I thought we'd leave an hour or two into the day, here he was at the end! He had been to Big Slide's summit before and didn't care if he made it, but to walk 15km with over 3000ft of ascent is admirable. I hope I am like that at 76....
Upon return to Canada the next day, we learned about an overdue hiker that apparently had been hiking the Trap Dike in the blizzard on Saturday. Having hiked in the area for the days he was missing but not found which was a bit unsettling. According to the Adirondack Explorer, his body was found buried under 4 feet of snow in what must have been an avalanche. A very sad outcome for this hiker and his family and friends. Stay safe!