You may have seen the photos on Facebook this week of a bunch of hikers having a keg party on top of Phelps Mountain. The photos sparked a lot of comments. Many people (not all) condemned the hikers. In researching the matter for the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Mike Lynch discovered that the guy behind the party has been ticketed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Given the interest in the story, we thought we’d post it here before we go to press.
By Mike Lynch and Phil Brown
A hiker who posted photos of a keg party on top of Phelps Mountain over Columbus Day weekend has been ticketed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Raja Bhatt, 32, of Queens was ticketed for allegedly taking part in a day-use group with more than fifteen people—the legal limit for a day hike in the eastern High Peaks Wilderness.
Bhatt said he didn’t organize the hike or the keg party.
“I was simply on the summit with some friends, and some friend of a friend brought a keg,” he said.
He said the only reason he was ticketed was because he posted photos on Facebook.
The photos showed a large group of people on top of the 4,161-foot summit. In one image, a woman was held upside-down while drinking from the tap. The photos were shared on the Aspiring Forty-Sixers and Adirondack Explorer Facebook pages, eliciting condemnations from many viewers (but not all).
Bhatt said he had finished his 46er round the previous day on Whiteface Mountain. The next morning, he hiked Phelps from Adirondak Loj with six or seven friends. He said other friends and acquaintances hiked up the mountain at different times.
Bhatt estimated that his circle of friends on the summit numbered no more than fifteen.
“Not everyone in those photos was in our group,” he said.
The photo of the upside-down woman notwithstanding, Bhatt said the party was not boisterous and no one on the summit objected to it.
Brian Hoody, the president of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, said the mountaintop celebration goes against the spirit of his organization. “We neither need nor want members who behave in this fashion,” he told the Explorer.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, also criticized Bhatt’s actions. “I am appalled at the idea of a keg party on the summit of Phelps,” he said. “… In my opinion, this kind of behavior is certainly inconsistent with the character and respect for the mountains that I expect of a 46er.”
Woodworth added that he believes a similar celebration took place recently on Cascade Mountain.
Bhatt faces a possible fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail.
NOTE: The article has been revised to include comments of Raja Bhatt and reflect the fact that he is charged with being part of a group that exceeded size limits, not with organizing the hike or the party. A longer story that also includes comments from another hiker on Phelps is now available at Adirondack Almanack.