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Old 09-22-2019, 04:38 PM   #1
Neil's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,087
Cliff Bushwhack and Slide Descent. Massive Redfield Slabs.

The fine line between hiking and technical climbing without gear. No place for the bold and daring.


For this off-trail hiking project mastergrasshopper and I set our sights on a Cliff-Redfield two-fer. After some back and forth map work via e-mail we agreed upon a course. We would whack Cliff directly from the Hanging Spears Falls trail from Flowed Lands then descend the Cliff Slide. Next, we would ascend the massive slabs on Redfield's south-west sub-summit, cross over and drop down to the bottom of the Redfield Slide for the ascent of Redfield.

Our intended route.

This itinerary called for a 6am start and at 8:30 we began the whack of Cliff from Flowed Lands. We began in the land of Floyd and progressed very slowly, clambering over countless pieces of blowdown until we arrived at a beautiful beaver pond (see pics). We detoured well to the south and forgot to correct, so by following the same bearing we were now (unbeknownst to us) aimed for one of Cliffs southern bumps.

Luckily we came screeching to a spot above huge and dizzying vertical drop that was not on our map.
We sat down and examined the map and discussed things. Once we figured out where we were we confirmed our solution with the GPS and began a slow and extremely gnarly traverse up on a narrow ridge to get back to our desired line of ascent along a “ramp” that lies just south of the winter route up Cliff from Livingston Pond. The cliffs petered out and we dropped into a gorgeous mossy fen (soggy ground).
We traversed the fen and, thoroughly enjoying our outing, we were now at 3100 feet. It was a straight shot to the summit through moderately easy woods. We hit the top
after 5h30 of hiking from Upper Works.

The next item on the agenda was the Cliff Slide which completely changed the nature of our hike. It was as if a brand new panel had been pulled across the previous one. (pics) We almost went down the wrong way and corrected by side-hilling across 45 degree slopes of leather leaf and cedar thickets until we dropped into the upper slide. It was very steep with plenty of loose rocks. We stuck very close together and following, I dislodged a couple of 20 lb rocks that went careening down the slide after gently caressing Glen's feet.

We were surrounded by massive cliff walls and enjoyed views of Marcy and, in our faces Redfield with the massive slabs aforementioned. The slabs looked very steep. Maybe too steep for us but we would see when we got to them. Many pictures later of Cliff's cliffs we were at the bottom of the slide. Sylvie, who was in the Adams fire tower, and I spoke over the radio. The signal somehow rounded the corner of Cliff's south end. I told her we would be out at 6 and to turn the radio on at that time to leave it on. It was now noon.

The slabs were only about 600 yards away but it took a lot of time and energy to get from Upper Twin Brook up to the lower north corner through the blowdown-rich woods. Massive cliffs suddenly appeared, towering vertically above us and they marched off towards the south. We followed along the cliff base until vertical became steep slab. We had arrived at that fine demarcation between hiking and technical climbing. The slabs above us were friction-climbable but we couldn't see beyond a 10-foot overhanging wall. The last thing we wanted was to get up there only to be stuck. Down-climbing would be impossible without a rope. As a result we kept to the slab's base and side-hilled across.

The slabs extend for a quarter mile horizontally and in the pictures this traverse looks easy but was in fact quite difficult, especially when there was a layer of friable black lichen. We painstakingly traversed, sometimes upwards and at other times downwards, always eying hungrily the upper reaches of the slabs, which grew steeper as you ascended them. The 400 yard traverse ate up an amazing amount of time and energy but this was what we had come for so we were content to let the hike roll. Everywhere the gaze fell it was beautiful, from the distant Colden slides to the extensive cliffs across the valley floor on mighty Cliff. It was important that we respect the limits of our abilities and rein in our desire to slab-climb higher at the risk of getting into trouble or falling. We were in a remote location and I had just read an account of two Spot devices on the same expedition failing to transmit SOS calls in the Canadian Rockies.

After one exhausting ascent that ended in a cliff wall and steep slab we retreated down-slope a long ways through thick cedars and along the slab's edge. We crossed the bottom of this finger of rock and began to climb right back up again. The slope was close to 45 degrees and we alternated between sections of clean slab and crazy-thick vegetation. It was about here that I noticed we were slowing down and I was feeling tired. I was pausing more often to let the burn in my quads diminish and the pounding in my chest subside. In the hot sun we were sucking greedily on our water hoses.

At 3 pm at 3500' and nearly a mile from the summit I sat down and said to Glen it was time to examine our bailout options. We were getting a whipping and I had to be in class in Montreal at 7:30 the next morning. Continuing to the summit would get us out at 11:00 and put me in bed at around 2am. Sylvie would be worried waiting for us at the trailhead or until we could get line of sight radio contact.

We had two choices after descending to Upper Twin Brook:
1-Ascend Upper Twin Brk. through the Cliff-Red col then descend to the official trail down the Opalescent to Lake Colden and out.
2-Descend the same brook to the junction of the Allen and Hanging Spears trails.

Glen favored the latter and was sure we would pick up the old trail. We debated back and forth and opted for #2. I could see the old trail and the various roads around the Allen trail on my GPS. The Hanging Spears Trail was less than 2 miles away. The steep initial descent went slowly and then the more gently sloped woods were thick but we progressed steadily towards the brook. And suddenly, we saw we were on the old trail and saw a marker! We were able to follow the old trail much more easily than I would have ever imagined. The elevation loss went much more quickly than had we been bushwhacking. We eventually picked up the Allen trail and hoofed it out to the Allen trailhead four hours after our turn-around point. I got to bed at 11 pm.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.
Neil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-22-2019, 11:02 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Porter Corners, NY
Posts: 1,015
Wow, you really do get out there...
JohnnyVirgil is offline   Reply With Quote

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