Skiing Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike

By:  Greg
February 17, 2011


Ben Peters smiles and removes his harness after a successful ski descent of Mt. Colden’s Trap Dike.
Ben celebrates a successful of the Trap Dike

The six mile return journey to the car will go quickly today.
going home

REWIND now many years. In some cheap motel in Lake Placid, NY during a week of ski races at Whiteface Mountain, the rain pounds on the window panes. We’re eagerly waiting for cold air to move in later that night, freeze the racing piste into a bulletproof track, and allow the competition to resume. To pass the time our coach is telling us about the history of the region. I listen as he recounts to me that the high peaks to the south of Lake Placid have some excellent skiing; perhaps some of the best in the world. At the time I knew how to ski between red and blue flags pretty quickly, but I was clueless when it came to The Mountains. Nonetheless my coach’s myths of the Adirondacks piqued my interest. Steep open faces a thousand vertical feet or more. Gullies wending their way through dense forests from the roof of New York down to the valley below. Among all these natural features though is one weakness which perhaps trumps them all. Nestled somewhere in the range–my coach is not sure where–is a deep crack in the mountain no more than a 100 feet wide. The result of a vein of soft rock eroding faster than the strong rock around it, the crack plunges several thousand feet from one of New York’s highest peaks, straight down to a beautiful lake. It can be skied, but only in the most perfect conditions. The name of this crack? The Trap Dike.

As the famous question goes: “What’s in a name?” Well in this case, the name can induce many sleepless nights dreaming of skiing a sharp crack in a hunk of rock that rarely gets the requisite snow. The name is the genesis of many hot summer afternoons poking around the internet looking for clues about how a ski descent might work, and when the conditions might be right. The name would like no better than to have the word “ski” appended to it (modulo some article).

FAST FORWARD now to 6 months ago, when Kristin and I went to take a look, and see what was involved in this Trap Dike. Gulp.
Gulp

When we got to the summit of Mount Colden after our ascent of the Trap Dike on that July day, we both knew that it could be skied. It wouldn’t be easy, and we knew the snow conditions would need to be just right, but with the information we had gathered, we knew we could do this with skis on our feet.
Soon kristin

FAST FORWARD to now. In LCC, the FIS Rocky Mountain office has logged an inspiring descent of the Heart of Darkness. The snow is piling up here on the east. Warm weather approaches from the west. With a warmup winter carnival in the books, we were ready.
Today

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Read about the author:   Greg

21 Comments

  1. K_C
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 9:20 am  
    1

    Very nicely written – I know how long you’ve wanted to ski that, glad you got it!

  2. Josh A
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 9:22 am  
    2

    good stuff man, I gotta get across the lake and do some high peak schussing one of these days

  3. Peter
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 11:09 am  
  4. bill
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 2:45 pm  
  5. Greg B
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 4:28 pm  
    5

    Nice TR and quality photos. Very jealous. Skied the True North slide on Gothics with an ascent up the North Face last year. Similar adventure involved, but this descent looks a dab trickier. Nice work.

  6. christian
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 5:43 pm  
  7. madskier
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 6:21 pm  
  8. Harvey44
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 8:07 pm  
    8

    For the uninformed … where does the term “Trap Dike” come from? I googled and learned about how it was formed, but couldn’t find any info on the origin of name. Great pics as usually Greg.

    I think on April Fools Day you guys should ski some groomers and post a report!

    • Greg
      wrote on April 12th, 2011 at 2:45 pm  
      9

      Hey Harv. Just getting back to this TR now to do replies. Sorry for the delay. Thanks for reading though!

      I’m actually not sure where the name comes from! Dang… great question. I’ll ask around.

  9. powhounddd
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 8:20 pm  
    10

    Nuts!!! I was just looking at a pic of Trap Dike earlier today and wondering if any nutter had tried skiing it… what a coincidence! Further evidence of FIS burliness. Way to go!!!!!

  10. efoxx
    wrote on February 17th, 2011 at 11:24 pm  
    11

    Unreal! Kudos! I hike in that area every summer, and never once did I think that was skiable. BTW how are the conditions up there? From what I have heard the ADKs haven’t been getting the snows VT has. I was planning on headed up for a tour this weekend but got scared away by the thaw to freeze that is forecasted.

  11. Butch Chamberlain
    wrote on February 22nd, 2011 at 2:27 pm  
    12

    Hey Hey. Lookee here. That does look just a bit tricky. Seen this area from afar but never ventured, even in the warm months. Needs some serious thought in this adventure. Looks like ya got it good. Nice pics as well.
    I haven’t seen too much of the DAKs for prolly a good five years or so. Have done a bit of tree hugging over there but not much. Must try to find something that is low aspect and try it out. Way to get it again.

  12. TSQ
    wrote on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:37 pm  
    13

    Excellent TR. Love the photos. Aren’t even locals and y’ll not only know how to locate the thing, but can ski it. Way to go!

    • Greg
      wrote on February 24th, 2011 at 2:15 pm  
      14

      HA. Well thanks for the compliment! We appreciated your help in getting a sense of snow conditions over there! Thanks for reading the TR!

  13. NoTrace
    wrote on February 25th, 2011 at 10:04 am  
    15

    Any idea of whether it has been skiied before? Is this a first?

    • Greg
      wrote on February 25th, 2011 at 10:38 am  
      16

      Good question. Definitely not a first. I’ll comment more on this later when I get to a real computer.

  14. NoTrace
    wrote on February 25th, 2011 at 10:22 pm  
    17

    Thanks…. a great story in any case, and if it is not the first time it has been skiied, it is certainly the first time it has been documented like this.

    • Greg
      wrote on April 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm  
      18

      Thanks for this second compliment… to answer your question more completely (sorry for the excessive delay here; i simply forgot to come back to this), this is not a first, but as you mentioned, the first time it’s been documented like this.

      The backcountry ski documentation in the high peaks is a bit sketchy. Alot of stuff that has been done is documented merely by someone (and his/her friends) saying “yeah it was done.” Little is out there in the way of pictures, or Trip Reports, etc for many of the larger ski descents.

      That’s all well and fine for most of the objectives in the Adirondacks–I understand that much of their allure is their mystery–but for something as noteworthy as the Trap Dike, I feel happy to have been able to contribute what I believe is the first well documented photo journal of a ski descent. As I said… I’m under no illusions that this was a first descent.

      To those critics of this TR out there… I hope you’ll grant me at least one observation: I think this TR respects the Adirondack tradition of mystery and limited “beta”…

  15. NoTrace
    wrote on April 13th, 2011 at 10:55 am  
    19

    I trust you are familiar with the pioneers of crazy backcountry skiing, from that long-ago (at least to some) era known as the Seventies? Informally known as the Ski-to-Die Club, they skiied many of the “impossible” routes in the High Peaks back when equipment was nothing like it is now …. they were documented in an article in the Adirondack Explorer about two years ago (article by Alan Wechsler).

    • Greg
      wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 8:53 am  
      20

      NoTrace:

      I’m indeed quite familiar with The Club and the article you mention. It’s quite a treat, and the story of Otis’ Gully alone is worth the read. (I still have no idea how one could ski Otis’ Gully without a tremendous rappel at the bottom…it’s sheer cliff!!)

      To go back to my prior comment though, I’d say the article and the documentation of the ski descents that it contains is in the spirit of “someone (and his/her friends) saying ‘yeah it was done.'” I didn’t see any pictures or story that really took me there.

      So my point is merely (as stated above) that I think this is the first top to bottom photo journal trip report of the occurrence. The Wechsler article is hardly a report, but instead is a publication announcing the descent. Not that there’s nothing wrong with it… I’d just call this trip report on FIS characteristically different from the Wechsler article.

      Of course, maybe one doesn’t think there is a need for a top to bottom photo journal trip report of skiing the Trap Dike of the type found here on FIS… but that’s another matter. I (obviously) thought there was a need (and the demand) for one, and hence this TR.

  16. noTrace
    wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm  
    21

    No skin off your back for documenting this off-the-wall trip. The vast majority of us would never attempt it, so this gives us a chance to experience it vicariously.

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