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Thread: A World of Ice on Whiteface Mt. Lake Placid Slide: 2014 January 12

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mudrat's Avatar
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    A World of Ice on Whiteface Mt. Lake Placid Slide: 2014 January 12

    Disclaimer or "How to Avoid Death by Slide Climbing"

    Duration: 8.5 hours
    Mileage/elevation gain: 10 miles/3,850 feet
    Weather: 20-25F ambient with 0F windchill (about 40 m.p.h. wind speed)
    Partner: Anthony Seidita (DeepForest)
    Photos



    The weather has been a roller coaster over the last week as many of us are well aware. I’d been studying the photos from various reports over the past weeks and trying to anticipate where the backcountry ice might be best…anything but open rock. I’d narrowed my target to a few choices and planned to simply make the best of whatever situation I found myself in—let the mountain define the terms and adapt. The rain on Saturday narrowed my choices further as I didn’t want to deal with multiple stream crossings. I’d all but given up when my wife and I went to Lake Placid for groceries. Through the pouring rain and mist I saw the Lake Placid Slide standing out against the forest—a gray-white line that I interpreted as heavy ice. There’d likely be no need to scratch my way up 1/8 thick verglas during the outing. At 6:00 p.m. that evening after checking the forecast, I made the final decision to give it a try. DeepForest was on standby and fine with the 12-hour advance notice.


    Kevin on some ice along the streambed of Whiteface Brook.

    Our adventure began from Route 86 near Connery Pond. Crossing Lake Placid, our first choice, seemed ill advised since it was covered with an inch of water on Saturday. Ground conditions were sure to be easy on the jeep trail given the thin snowpack so we started around 9:30 a.m. Microspikes balled up pretty quickly in some areas as we crossed the various rivulets that turned the path into a slushy mess on occasion. We’d reached the north end of the lake within an hour and hiked to the jump-off point for the bushwhack (about 2,850 feet in elevation) by around 11:30 a.m.

    The route wound upward among the loosely spaced trees high atop the stream. Hiking in Whiteface Brook was out of the question as it was open. The wind whipped through the trees hinting that it would make the climb interesting once we were on more open terrain. The lay of the land tried to ‘push’ us toward the brook a few hundred vertical feet below the slide so I took a slightly different tact than during my 2012 trip with ‘Nangaparbat’. Anthony and I stayed farther to the right which led to a house-sized erratic—the perfect place to have a snack.

    Shortly thereafter we exited the woods and onto a snowfield below the first of two small slides on the right. There we changed into climbing gear. After a short bushwhack upward (and under some blowdown), a wall on the right caught my eye. It was thick with yellow ice and perhaps 70 degrees in slope. About 3 feet of snow had collected along the base, the most I’d seen all year (and the most I’d see for the rest of the trip). The wall was about 20 feet high; we climbed about halfway up and traversed across which led closer to the slide proper. It was enough to warm my cold hands—a normal and annoying problem that happens each trip when I stop to change gear.

    After crossing a larger ‘pre-slide’ slide on the right, we stepped onto the small area of snow preceding what would be a walk up a 1,600 foot long sheet of thick sustained ice (the top wasn’t all covered or it would have been longer).


    Autumn and winter comparison photo of the bottom of the slide. Anthony is heading for the first large overlap.


    A walk up the Lake Placid Slide quickly leads to an 8 foot overlap during the summer (see comparison photo below). This day it was an icy dream. Since the slide is easy compared to many others (low exposure and slope), I made it my goal to augment the difficulty by taking the path of greatest resistance—aim for as much near-vertical ice as possible. I considered it practice for harder objectives later in the season. Or perhaps, I was just compensating for the easy approach conditions.

    In any case, I mentioned it to Anthony and could see his mind working. Out came the quip--“I’m just looking around for a good place to leave you with a down jacket while I get help (and have a beer) after you break you ankle.” I laughed, but it brought up an excellent point—don’t fall victim to complacency, injury can still happen and we were standing on solid ice miles from help in near zero wind chill conditions.


    Anthony on the overlap.

    He led the way and we climbed carefully up the first obstacle. The ice was good in some areas, soft in others and brittle in yet others. Occasionally our axe would cut a hole to relieve pressure on the water dammed just beneath. The entire slide was refreezing from the heavy rains the day before. Obviously it never lost its ice fully during the melt. Beyond, it was an ever changing landscape of ice flows in subtle shades of blue, green, brown and clear. Larger ledges about halfway up continued to present more ‘interesting’ pitches, though simple ramps were always nearby if we wanted opt out and walk around.


    The subtle colors of ice--God's watercolor painting.



    Kevin picking a route near the middle of the slide (above). Autumn/winter comparison below.




    Another large overlap in summer, a place where NP and I had taken a break in October of 2012, was covered with a tangle of contorted icicles slightly covered in rime ice. In fact it looked a bit like a large frozen sea anemone. Parts shattered like glass as I climbed it. Beyond and near the top in the rubble (a few hundred feet (elevation) prior to the summit, the thick ice gave way to much thinner ice. We climbed more carefully in a world of rocks covered in leaves of rime ice. It was hard to believe how harsh it was on the slide compared with the balmy temperatures near the lake By now we were also adorned by some ice as well and the gauntlets of my mitts were frozen solid. Crampons scratched on the rock until catching a convenient hold.

    The aręte materialized above in the snow as the time approached 3:00 p.m. We’d climbed into the clouds at around 3,500 feet in elevation, blowing pellets of snow our companion the entire time. Thankfully the wind was at our back. Rather than climb the aręte as usual, we took the ramp to the right and followed it up to the summit. I hooked the axe tip on any convenient crack in the rock rather than on ice for stability as the wind tried to have its way with me. Another ramp and short scramble led to the observation deck and summit sign.




    Along the base of the aręte.

    The sign, as the rest of the area, was coated in heavy rime ice. The wind whipped around it as Anthony got the ‘bright’ idea to wipe it clean for the picture. Suddenly hundreds of shards flew in my direction. Thanks “T”!!!

    The exit plan was to traverse down the ridge to Marble Mountain and the atmospheric research center where we left my vehicle. The trail was covered in ice with a couple inches of powder. The memorial highway was blown clean, the yell lines in plain view. The ice softened a couple thousand feet lower adding a bit of slush to the scene. It softened each step on my knees which were growing tired of the constant pounding of crampon on hard surfaces…I’d changed into less aggressive grivel 10-points so I didn’t wear down the BD Sabretooths. They’re also easier to walk in.

    The car appeared out of the darkness at roughly 6:00 p.m.—thus ended another short yet fulfilling day in the Adirondacks.



    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.
    Full list of trip reports, photo galleries, mosaics & video at: http://www.adirondackmountaineering.com

  2. #2
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    I guess they refer to it as "Iceface" for a reason.

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    Senior Member Mudrat's Avatar
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    Thankfully! Now we need some snow for the skiers!
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.
    Full list of trip reports, photo galleries, mosaics & video at: http://www.adirondackmountaineering.com

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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    And on that subject, how do you think that slide would look for skiing, with a decent snowpack? Right now, this doesn't look like the year, but I've often thought that a reverse of your trip, on skis, would be a neat outing...

  5. #5
    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    You might have to change your screen name to Ice Dog if you keep this up.

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    Senior Member Mudrat's Avatar
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    TCD: I think with a thick stable snowpack it would be a dream. I haven't explored the stream itself inch by inch, but you could probably go a ways down it as well. Keep in mind that I can't ski to save my life

    Puma: I'm definitely loving the ice season! I think I'm stuck with my name. Besides, I bet I can find some mud around even during winter!
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.
    Full list of trip reports, photo galleries, mosaics & video at: http://www.adirondackmountaineering.com

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    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudrat View Post
    Puma: I'm definitely loving the ice season!
    Reminds me of my "good old days" when I was actively ice climbing, BC/XC skiing, and (winter) hiking and would do whichever was best suited to the current conditions. As a result, some winters were ice winters, some were ski winters, and the rest were hiking winters. Methinks ice may be winning so far this winter...

    Doug

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mudrat's Avatar
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    Methinks you're right! The last 3 have started this way. I remember last January 15 on Giant was pretty beaten after a significant thaw, though there was a good dumping of snow just prior. The weather gurus keep saying we're setting up for extended periods w/o thaw, so maybe it will switch. Then again.... Either way is good, it's j
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.
    Full list of trip reports, photo galleries, mosaics & video at: http://www.adirondackmountaineering.com

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