How quickly the phrase “failure is not an option” turns into “let’s find the nearest pub” when faced with an extended trip down an icy rock face. Pictured above is part of the trail down Slide Mountain on the way to Cornell. Yes, that’s the trail up the middle of the picture, completely filled in with ice. If you had been there you would have found me clinging to some of this rock face, stuck and hyperventilating, even wearing crampons, wondering aloud, why, why, why, am I here again? Have I learned nothing? You would have observed my dog looking at me quizzically, wondering, why doesn’t she just trot down like I just did?
The dog always finds the way, but that’s because he’s two feet tall and can sneak through the bush under the pines and get his traction from the forest floor, which was, incidentally, ice-free. We tried this for a while, weaving down the mountain through the moss covered pines to rejoin flatter parts of the descent. I crawled under the fir trees and hauled myself up over huge mossy boulders, but we were taking too much time, we turned around and clambered back up to Slide and on to home.
Cornell can be approached from two directions on the marked trail on the Burroughs Range, from either Wittenberg Mountain or Slide Mountain or you can bushwhack to it from any direction you’d like. For the second time, we tried to approach it from Slide and failed yet again. Slide is extraordinarily beautiful at the summit: a lush, mossy cap covered in a dense thicket of balsam fir adorned with hanging lichen and even the aroma alone is incredible. It’s magical and has two or three reasonable views that are rapidly growing over. Slide was visited often by the naturalist and essayist, John Burroughs and just above the nook where he often slept overnight, there is a plaque to commemorate him. You can sit on this rock and eat your sandwich. In winter, most hikers turn around and descend the way they came.
The ascent to Slide (from the parking area that’s about a mile uphill on Route 47 from the Giant Ledge parking area) is reasonably difficult and almost two hours of continuous uphill battle, some of it exhaustingly steep. (To read my previous accounts of Slide, click here, here, here and here.)
Continue on to Cornell from there however, and the hiker is required to negotiate a steep drop down the eastern side of Slide, on a trail that tightly hugs the mountain, and slide you will in the winter, because yesterday the trail was completely encased in ice from this sign (below) onward. Although there were flat portions of this trail, the riskier parts were just too hair-raising. Plus, I was too busy panicking to whip out the camera.
We gamely soldiered down gingerly inching down the side of an icy mountain for about an hour and it was at this time that the episode in which I slid down a mountain and crashed into a tree sprang uneasily to mind. There is a third gobsmacking view from this part of the descent off Slide and we lingered here, gathering some strength before we started back for home. Cornell, which I looked at longingly while eating a sandwich (pictured below in the middle/right of the image) will have to wait. Third time lucky, perhaps.