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Trap Dike - Wet and Wild in the Winter - 2016 December 27

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  • Trap Dike - Wet and Wild in the Winter - 2016 December 27


    Walking toward a staircase of water over ice at the base.

    I often say that God works in strange ways toward the best outcome. I was trying to find an ice climbing partner for Tuesday, December 27 for something big and backcountry. A last minute hook-up with Jaryn DeShane came through—he was up for the gorge. In a side conversation he mentioned that he wanted to climb the Trap Dike during his pursuit of the Winter 46; he asked if I’d take him. A voice inside urged me to make the dike a priority and leave the gorge for a later date. I listened to it and we set the plan in motion.

    Rains the night before made me questioned the wisdom of going out at all, but I can usually work with the conditions set before me. We met at Adirondack Loj at 5:30 a.m. and walked in a gentle rain; how many times I’ve aimed for the dike in the rain, I cannot count, but never in the winter. I hoped the water level would be low. I’d climbed it during the summer in high water conditions and it can make the climb more treacherous.

    We arrived at Avalanche Lake at around 8:20 and walked across the north end in ankle deep water/slush atop ice before redirecting to the trail. We walked across the lake again once we were across from the dike. Some gullies and cracks where fat with ice while other areas were thin or delaminating. The rains had wreaked havoc on the ice.

    I felt a wave of uncertainty sweep over me as we walked up to the debris fan. It had recently avalanched; ice chunks and snow were strewn about. I assume the rain flushed it. The cleft was flowing strongly and the rushing sound was intimidating. We took a closer look and dropped our packs near the trees to relax out of the wind.

    There was a few inches of water flowing over the ice on the cascades I could see. From what I could discern at a distance, the underlying ice looked good. But what was the quality? I considered the various logistics as we talked and ate. Jaryn later said he thought I’d say no to the idea of climbing it. Perhaps I should have! My previous concerns revolved around the possibility of the slides avalanching—rain soaked snow and warm weather aren’t good bed partners. This was quelled since there wasn’t much snow on the slides and the temperatures were below freezing and not warming. We would be in the water much of the time, but were armored with gortex, fleece and waterproof packs. I trust Jaryn’s “mountain senses” and knew I couldn’t handle the conditions.

    We geared up and climbed into an adventure that would become a challenge greater than I expected; this is nothing new! The lower dike is like a series of steps so it was subjectively safe to solo as long as we focused on placing each tool in good ice. I bounce tested each before committing myself; a good decision since they occasionally tore through and needed re-placement. The climbing was “interesting” and wet.

    I pondered the crux waterfall as we climbed. I brought screws and a rope, but much of the ice was of low quality and thin. Jaryn was comfortable soloing the lower portion which allowed us to keep the rope dry until absolutely necessary. We took a break at a huge terrace below crux. A 6-foot deep furrow through frozen snow showed exactly how high the water was over night.

    Walking up to the waterfall brought me to life as the wind caught the water of the cascade and sprayed us. I packed the camera and sealed the pack before stemming up a side waterfall—a fun 15 foot climb with some surprisingly good ice to play on. For those who know the dike—we flaked the roped at the bottom the “blind chute” to the right of the waterfall proper. It was protected from the spray. A few seemingly good bulges about halfway up looked like strong candidates for the first ice screw. I studied my line hoping to stay dry(ish)—that was futile in hindsight.

    Climbing the bottom was comfortable and the spray was negligible. I stopped at a 6 foot vertical ledge and placed a screw. Good! Thereafter, I found two solid placements for the ice axes, bounce-tested them and committed. I kicked a foot into the icy wall...the front point sliced cut through some slush so I took a wider stance and committed my weight to the axes to attain the ledge. My next play was to move across the waterfall where the dike squeezes together. Solid looking bulges made the traverse look easy. If I was fast enough I wouldn’t be in the water long. Again I set the tools deeply in good ice and I stepped into the water.

    The terrain guided me into a trough that funneled the main flow. I kicked into the wall and stepped up before slipping when my front-points lost traction; the axes took my full weight. The ice was too soft under foot. I tried kicking in the other foot and found harder ice as the water flowed over my thighs and around my waist. A mouthful of water and trickle down my chest where it breached my shell chilled me; my glasses fogged over. Unfortunately, my hands were above my shoulders so water trickled up each sleeve as well. ...I thought this was fun why!?

    With frozen glasses and blurry vision, I climbed up to the small terrace at the top and stood in a small pool. The saturated fleece under my shell and even the wet gloves were beginning to rewarm; it was time to search for a place to belay. This took time as the ice was either too thin or soft. The best ice was underwater so I continued up another small waterfall to a dry terrace with good ice on the right. I set a couple screws and built an anchor with a quickly freezing sling. I pulled the rope up until it became tight. Jaryn gave two tugs and I responded in kind; it was his turn to climb.

    Jaryn climbed as the gear continued to freeze solid. Thankfully I warmed up. I watched Jaryn peek over the top of the falls—he arrived with the “screaming barfies”. His hands were cold and painful. On solid ground I worked on the gear while he reanimated his hands. There was still much climbing to do, but the pitch requiring rope was completed. Jaryn coiled the rope, well, tried to. It’s dry-core and treated, but still became stiff from being underwater.


    The remaining areas of the dike were fun with the mental pressure of the crux behind. The dike is wider which offered more choices for dry climbing especially since the flow ebbed with elevation gain. The inconsistent ice below became more reliable with some 10 foot vertical ledges. It was nice to solo them with the picks buried inches deep and secure. The warm temperatures had created an unsupportive crust on the snow so walking alongside the ice meant breaking through with each step. Jaryn was having a crampon issue, so this became his path to the top.

    The mountain was enveloped in a ghostly fog above about 3,800 feet in elevation. Vertical walls on the left were covered in ice of varying shades of yellow. Who can see such things unless they venture into these areas!? I felt blessed to be walking amidst the cold delicate beauty.




    We soon located the house-sized chock stone deposited by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011—marker for the Trap Dike slide—and accessed it along the right-hand side. Jaryn then stayed within about 20 feet of the right-hand edge where there was crust while I ventured onto the intermittent ice flows. This eased the energy I had to expend, but gave my calves quite the burn. Attaining the top of the slide took about 1.5 hours with frequent breaks to shake out the lactic acid buildup and catch our breath. Jaryn bushwhacked around the yellow-ice covered headwall—a “fun” endeavor in chest deep snow with a crust! I stayed on the ice.

    The adventure became amusing when we bushwhacked to the trail. It’s only about 100 feet, but it took 20 minutes since we fell through to our waists or deeper with each step. I remember briefly standing on firm ground before plunging in with the next stride. In frustration while crawling on all fours I asked Jaryn to get out the GPS. This felt ludicrous since the ridge is narrow, but there was no sign of the trail and we were tired. I circled back and found the trail at the same time that the GPS locked in on our location. We broke trail north where and found ski tracks...someone had stopped about 500 feet short of the summit. We ended the day at 6 p.m. All good days start and end in darkness! This trip bridged various skillsets and made us think about each decision; all the better!



    May you always be a student of the journey. God Bless.

  • #2
    Wow, amazing report & photos, Kevin!
    I was on the edge of my seat while reading!
    For god's sake man please be careful out there!


    • #3
      Originally posted by Justin View Post
      Wow, amazing report & photos, Kevin!
      I was on the edge of my seat while reading!
      For god's sake man please be careful out there!
      Thanks, Justin. I live for this
      May you always be a student of the journey. God Bless.