On a summer day in 1850, two workers from the McIntyre Iron Company (Now the Upper Works trailhead) set out to stand on top of the unclimbed Mt. Colden, an Adirondack High Peak named after an investor of the Iron Works. Since no trail existed, the pair started up the only weakness in the Mountain, a large dike on the west side that spilled into Avalanche Lake. They followed the dike up the mountain until the walls disappeared. They soon found themselves ascending an exposed slide into the unknown. A few hundred feet of scrambling lead to the summit. Later that night, the pair celebrated their first ascent by killing a deer and cooking it over a fire.
Relive their adventure by climbing the original (and still the best) route up the mountain. I wouldn't recommend cooking a deer over a fire afterwards though, I think the rangers would be pissed.
The route climbs the obvious dike over easy 3rd-4th class rock. The crux is a 30ft rock staircase next to a waterfall. As you climb higher in the dike, the walls will shrink until its possible to climb out right onto the slide. It is VERY important not to exit the dike at the first chance. The slide here is very steep with no gear. A few parties have made this mistake having no technical rock experience or clean underwear and needed to be rescued. Stay in the dike until the 2nd or 3rd exit. If you stay in the dike too long, you'll find yourself in a nasty bushwhack to traverse right onto the slide. You know you've exited at the right point if you traverse onto the slide right and see a slab dihedral. Follow the easy, exposed slide to the top.
Here is an excellent trip report containing photos and topos..
The route is easy to locate, it's the huge dike in the side of the mountain, east side of Avalanche Lake.
I've heard of some people belaying for the waterfall section, but it's really not necessary. It's pretty much a rock staircase with huge hands and feet. Just don't fall.
You might want to avoid the route after heavy rainfall or in the spring. If there's a lot of water coming down, think twice. The two times I've done it, the water has only been a trickle.
The base of the route
An older woman (70) was perhaps ill-prepared for ...
Approaching the crux
Looking at the Trap Dike from across the lake, tra...
K9 (Colvin) being belayed up the crux headwall of ...
Me & David on the summit boulder of Mt. Colden (Ph...
Looking down the new POST Irene exit slide
Man when I climbed it the water falls were gushing...
Looking up from base, merely a simple scramble at ...
It made it a little more interesting I think! The ...
Another view looking up ... lots of vegetation in ...
BETA PHOTO: Around the 1st waterfall, looking down.
Colvin on the old Colden Slab. This ascent, though...
Sep 20, 2009
Fantastic route, makes for a great (but LONG) day in the mountains. About 13 miles total. If you have GPS or an altimeter, exit the dike around 3650-3700' to gain the upper slabs. Angle up and right until you can see the summit. Rock shoes are nice on the slab, especially if wet, but certainly not essential. Gear + rope would be overkill.
|By Jay Piasecki|
From: Keene Valley, NY
Apr 3, 2010
rating: Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c
If you exit early, the route is easy 5th class with rock shoes recommended. Don't Fall!
From: Tacoma, Washington
Jul 9, 2010
much fun. Exited right immediately after the second waterfall by the island of birch trees. Some fun 5th class. Spicy without climbing shoes, but not absolutely needed. I aimed for the islands of trees to take breaks from the exposure. Would not recommend without gear if damp.
|By Auto-X Fil|
From: NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
May 25, 2011
Incredible climb. The views, scrambling, and exposure are all excellent.
I highly recommend the 1990 slide on the other side of Colden for a descent. It makes for a real adventuresome day.
|By Jaysen Henderson|
From: White Plains, New York
Jul 15, 2011
hopefully someone will post a winter version of the trap dike, im trying to gain some knowledge on the best time of season to go for it (avoiding avalanche) ive heard its a fantastic winter ascent
|By Greg Kuchyt|
Jul 15, 2011
The Trap Dike(winter)
Regarding avalanche risk. Early and late season when it's not packed with snow are best. Consequently, that's when the climbing is best because you actually get to climb ice and not just slog through snow. That said, early and late season doesn't eliminate avalanche risk. It all depends on a myriad of factors.
There are times where a weather event will create a blanket "no go" for any avalanche terrain (or anything subject to the runout from that terrain). Rock and River runs an ice report on their website during the winter and is good about noting these periods. As well, NEIce will usually be abuzz and the DEC will note these periods as well. It's important to note though that the DEC does not do forecasting/observation like the snow rangers in the White Mountains in NH.
The best thing to do is to take the AIARE Level I course and it will cover the basics and give you a toolset to make more informed decisions. I believe the MountainFest in Keene Valley always offers an abbreviated Level I course and I know PetraCliffs in Burlington, VT runs a few full Level I courses in the winter.
|By apeman e|
Sep 18, 2011
the dike is fine post-Irene. I'd be nervous if the upper slabs were wet.
|By Matt Glue|
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 6, 2011
Climbed it today, exiting via the new slide. This was my first time doing it. Like the previous link said, all trees and other vegetation in the dike are gone. It was also chossy enough that we wished we'd brought helmets.
We kept looking for an exit out right but never saw something that looked enticing. Not sure if Irene changed that or if we didn't look hard enough (probably the latter).
We ended up exiting onto the new slide. There were a couple of ways to get up on it; both had one or more moves of easy 5th with real fall potential. Not too experienced in ADK slab grades but I suppose the top was 4th going on 5th. It steepens up in the last 100 feet or so.
From: Jersey City, NJ
Jan 17, 2012
did this back in early October. Was my first time there so can't compare pre and post Irene. Only a couple of climbing moves required in the dike itself. Exited a fair ways up (not at the first exit point) on two diagonal cracks that brought me onto the slab. Irene may have changed to route enough to make earlier descriptions difficult to apply.
Brought my climbing shoes just in case, but never put them on. On the slabs toward the top, it gets a bit thoughtful at times.
left camp at Colden Dam around 7:30 and topped out on Colden around 9:45. Chilled out for about an hour on the top to recover, eat and relax then descended and then hiked to the top of Marcy on the same day. (a long, but memorable day)
Does anyone know if there any way to exit at the top without climbing over the bushes? I looked for an opening, but never found it.
|By Jim Lawyer|
Jun 11, 2012
Like many of the backcountry slides, this one was changed considerably by Hurricane Irene on August 28, 2011. In addition to the devastating floods that hit the region, the landscape of the backcountry was significantly changed, including the west face of Mt. Colden. A new slide was created that extends from the top of the Trap Dike to the summit of Mt. Colden. The debris scoured the dike, stripping it clean of vegetation and dumping the resultant slurry into a debris cone that extends halfway across Avalanche Lake. Not only did this create a new (and most excellent) slide climb, but it improved the exposed alpine feel of the dike itself, making this modest scramble feel like a "big mountain" route.
Enter the dike as normal and climb past the second waterfall (crux). The easiest climbing is in the water. There are no longer any trees, so if you need a rope, you'll also need gear to establish anchors. Above this, the walls of the dike are now totally visible and obvious, and you can easily find the traditional place to exit the dike onto the Colden Slide to the right. For the new slide, continue up the dike to its top where a clean, white slide enters on the right. The rock is beautiful, white, dimpled, and awesome, if not a little sandy on the feet. Unlike the Colden Slide, this new slide is unbroken—-no tree islands or other features; imagine an endless parking lot tipped on an incline. There are three bulges where care is needed, the steepest at the very top. From there, walk 40' up to the trail, then 100' right to the summit.
For the Colden Slide, if you aim properly, you can climb directly to the perched boulder on the summit, so no bashing through bushes is necessary. The new 2011 slide ends 40' shy of the trail, so there's a minimal bushwhack at the top. Because of the scouring of the dike and complete absence of vegetation, the only bushwhack you'll encounter is going around the south end of Avalanche Lake to reach the dike itself.
Both slides can be 3rd classed by competent climbers in approach shoes (with sticky rubber); no rope or gear necessary. It can easily be done in a casual day from the car.
|By Mike McLean|
Jul 21, 2012
rating: 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
I just read a report that there is now apparently 'a bolt and piece of climbing line at the crux' ...
|By Derek Doucet|
Jul 26, 2012
In reading that thread Jim, it sounds as though the object in question may actually be a pin with some tat rather than a bolt and fixed line. Still not necessary, but more easily remedied than a bolt and fixed line...
From: Lake George, NY
Aug 8, 2012
climbed on 7-22. there is a piton with webbing at the crux on the right side of the waterfall...no bolt no rope. reading the thread the guy clearly has no idea what a bolt looks like or what rope is. i will give him credit for making it up though.
|By Anna C.|
Jul 20, 2013
Climbed this 7/16/13 via the new 2011 slide at the top, which is highly recommended. Climbing shoes might be nice if you don't own approach shoes with sticky rubber. No more gear/pitons at the crux, just 20 feet or so of easy but steep steps next to the waterfall. A great 4-8 hour day from the Adirondack Loj trailhead, depending on how fast you are moving. I can't recommend this climb enough!!
|By Ian Dibbs|
Sep 29, 2013
Be ready for a long day if you are starting from the LOJ. It will take 3 hours speeding, and more likely 4 hours travelling to get to the base of the Trap Dike. The surrounding setting is stunning, captivating and has amazing towering climbable walls along the way. Be ready though ,there are 1,200 ft of vertical gain just to get to Avalanche Lake.
I underrated the length the dike (goes way past the waterfalls composed of mostly easy scrambling)and also the length of the "new white slide" above it. By the end of the end of the slide I felt an Everest climber having to pause regularly. Between the dike and the new white slide there is 1,600 vertical ft of climbing to get to the top of Colden. The return trip total from the LOJ was a solid 3500 vertical feet.
I tend to be overly cautious but....our party used one short roped belay for the 50 feet of the upper waterfall. It isn't that hard but ....its often wet and there was a group just above us with potential of loose rocks coming down from above.(See pic of stuck older woman). A fall along this section could be very ugly.
The new white slide rock would benefit greatly by wearing sticky rubber and of late Sep 2013 there was a 10 foot wide "mud band" at the base of the final bulge which I tried, but found too slippery and risky to get through. It appears that climbing shoes seem to make good mini skis on the slick mud. On the right side of the base of the final bulge is a crude trail up, which by-passes the mud band before rejoining the final bit of the slide. For curiosity I took a look and found the vegetation on both sides of the slide to be super dense, difficult to hike through, thick stunted forest composed mostly of fir tress. If there were any trails through the trees going up to bail out on, I didn't see them. After the exit at the top you can go right to go down Colden to get back to Avalanche pass or turn left to Lake Arnold. When heading back expect another 3-4 hours to return to the LOJ .....
|By Logan Schiff|
From: NY, NY
Oct 14, 2013
My wife and I did this at a steady but reasonably slow pace this weekend from the South Meadows, which adds about one mile round trip compared to leaving from the Loj. It took us about 9.5 hours round trip. I can't see doing it in much less than 7.5-8 hours without really hurrying.
I thought it was a fantastic hike though would be very heady and potentially dangerous for a non-climber. The waterfall was pretty easy even with hiking boots as long as you pay attention for the occasional bit of loose rock.
We did the new slide. It was very fun, but I wished I had brought rock shoes. Perhaps we started the slide in the wrong spot because I found one of the early bulges to be quite scary in hiking boots. The mud band was still there at the top as of 10/13/13. I hiked/climbed through it on all fours but almost slipped at one point at one point. The last bulge has some good holds so once you get past the mud it's not bad. The slab above this part, while low angle, was a bit wet even though it hadn't rained in days adding yet more excitement.
Overall a spectacular day but make sure to plan accordingly and probably not a good idea for non-climbers without a rope.
|By J. Serpico|
From: Saratoga County, NY
Mar 12, 2014
There is no bolt, it's a lost arrow piton. It's solid, looks good and is recent. I've clipped it belaying my dog. Is it necessary? No. You could bring some small cams for the same purpose. I have no issue with it, but then I've used it to my benefit.
As far as how hard it is. Though there were rumors that dogs couldn't climb it, I've climbed it with both my dogs over a 13 year span. One climbed like a goat (mantles, chimney moves, etc) the other (current dog) not so well. In both cases minimal assistance was needed. However, I do not recommend bringing a dog. Most dogs are poorly trained and will be a safety hazard for other climbers. However, most people are poorly trained and are a safety hazard to other people.
I recommend the new slide if it's wet or rain threatens. It's also the easier (more straigh forward exit). The rock is coarse, dimpled and clean. It's steeper than the old slide, but with better grip, perhaps less stressful because of the grippy nature.
The old slide has lichen, tree islands, and mud/grass islands. It requires a bit more route finding to exit. Once on it it is straight forward and relatively low angle. It's only 2nd class and more interesting because of the occasional overlap.
I've never climbed either slide in climbing shoes, but I do recommend snugger fitting sticky rubber approach shoes. This will make your day more enjoyable.