The Adirondack 46ers Series: Lower Wolf Jaw — Once Bitten Twice Shy

Lower Wolf Jaw

Our first attempt at Lower Wolf Jaw (LWJ) was last September. Bennies Brook slide is an alternative route up to the summit, an unmarked slide recently enlarged by hurricane Irene. We thought it would be a fun terrain to explore instead of the marked trail.

Providing an example of our stupidity on-line does not come easily, but if one person reading this benefits from this than it’s worth it.

We headed out from the Johns Brook Lodge on a perfectly warm fall morning with our light backpacks.

Imagine the slide as a three-fingered Y. Our understanding was to hike up the left finger and near the top move over to the middle finger where we would find a herd path on the left.

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Looking up at the slide

The first few hours were fun, we went slowly over rubble, rocks, boulders and trees while enjoying the views and taking many pictures as we climbed and scramble upwards.

Lovely fall colours on the way up

Lovely fall colours on the way up

As we got higher the exposed rock became quite steep and slick. We had been climbing on the left of the slide and had to make our way to the right. So instead of crossing the open rock face we decided to follow along the tree line, holding on and pulling ourselves up by the trees. Reaching the top of the slide we thought we would go through the bush to find the second finger of the slide — that’s easy right?

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Varied terrain before the smooth upper rock section of the slide

Hiking smooth slab rock section

Ginette enjoying a smooth slab rock section.

Wrong! The bush was much thicker than we had anticipated. Little light penetrated the thick canopy of trees; hemlock, pines and firs were a jumbled mess making our bushwhack difficult.

For what seemed like forever (probably wandering in circles) we searched for a trail all the while convincing ourselves we would find something soon.

“We must be getting close to the slide” and a few swear words were repeated numerous times.

Slowly panic set in and it was time to admit we were lost. “OK, let’s regroup, focus and look at our predicament” We took out our map and compass, found the sun and looking through the trees we found a mountain in the distance as a point of reference. “Ginette, don’t worry…”

With difficulty, we kept Mount Marcy in our sight line as we headed down sinking through the thick mushy tangled undergrowth and downwood of the forest floor.

Hours later, covered in scratches, scuffed up and bruised we located the slide — joy!

Once out, we decided we would not talk about this experience, embarrassed at our immaturity and naivety.

We didn’t want to make a habit of getting lost in the woods!

And so our second attempt at Lower Wolf Jaw was uneventful. With our packs full of essentials we registered at the Rooster Comb trailhead and set out along the marked path. Even though, the day was clear we did not get any views until we reached our destination. Nearing the summit we kept looking for the herd path that we had previously missed but nothing jumped out as a possible trail. We hugged at the summit and enjoyed the clear views.

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Happy with no scratches at the top of Lower Wolf Jaw.

Never wanting to do things twice we descended LWJ from the other side of the mountain. On our way back we passed the slide we had taken the previous fall. While we reminisced about our past adventure and took photos we striked up a conversation with a group going by.

The slide we were looking at was the Wolfjaw Brook and NOT the Bennies Brook Slide. Apparently we had climbed the wrong slide!! We should have kept going further to the next slide–Ok, so now this makes sense!

Lessons Learned:

1. Being lost is scary, use your good judgement. KEEP CALM and HIKE ON!

2. We were not prepared for the days bushwhack, we had a few basics with us, but we certainly were not ready had things got worst. Carry what outdoors people refer to as “The 10 essentials.” Luck favours the prepared.

3. We didn’t have a clear idea of where we were going. Navigation skills are important –learn them before you need to use them.

4. Yeah, we’re bummed we didn’t make it to the summit of Lower Wolf Jaw on our first attempt, but then we would not have a story to tell. It’s OK to fail.

5. Take some risk and try new things. Bennies Brook Slide — we’ll be back for you soon!

 

Lower Wolf Jaw, check — 32 of 46, awesome!

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