Guide Rescues Solo Climber Near Chapel Pond

The view from Shipton’s Arete. Photo by Phil Brown.

Shipton’s Arete is one of my favorite places to take a novice rock climber. The three routes on the arête are all pretty easy. There’s a good anchor for a top rope. And the arête overlooks scenic Chapel Pond.

The easiest route, Shipton’s Voyage, is rated only 5.4 on the Yosemite Decimal System scale of difficulty—meaning most beginners can do it on a top rope.

However, climbing Shipton’s Voyage—or any route—without a rope is another matter entirely. An eighteen-year-old man learned that lesson the hard way this month.

Standing at the top. Photo by Phil Brown.

On August 14, the young man set about soloing the arête, with no protection. He ascended about 70 feet before he decided he could go neither up nor down.

As luck would have it, Mike Rawdon, a climbing guide with Alpine Endeavors of New Paltz, happened to be at Chapel Pond with a client and learned of the teen’s predicament.

Rawdon and his client noticed that someone was on Shipton’s without a rope and not moving. “He was just below the top of the pitch. Maybe 70 feet up,” Rawdon wrote in an email. “Just then a woman sitting on the beach said, oh so casually, ‘Yea, he’s stuck.”

The woman told Rawdon that someone had just left to drive to the Mountaineer to summon help. “I said we could get up to him easily and quickly, and long story short, that’s what we did,” Rawdon said. “I led up to him, tied him in with a bowline, brought him to the anchor, and raised [his client’s] harness up on the end of the rope. It fit the poor lad, and I lowered him to his anxious family at the base. ”

“The kid was calm throughout the process,” Rawdon said, “but I wish I’d counted how many times he said, ‘I’ve made a bad mistake.'”

Forest Rangers Rob Praczkajlo and Chris Kostoss showed up while Rawdon was carrying out the rescue.

Having climbed Shipton’s Voyage several times, I can imagine how a soloist could run into trouble. At the start, the route offers big holds and ledges, but as you get higher, the holds and ledges shrink. If you’re inexperienced, you might get intimidated.

Of course, this is speculation. I don’t know where on the arête the guy was climbing.

What I wonder, though, is how he expected to get back down. As any climber can tell you, going up is easier than going down. At the end of a route, climbers generally rappel or follow a descent path. On Shipton’s, climbers usually rappel.

Shipton’s Arete, which rises practically out of Chapel Pond, is named after Eric Shipton, a British mountaineer. Next-door is Tilman’s Arete, named after Bill Tilman, Shipton’s frequent climbing partner.

The guidebook Adirondack Rock gives Shipton’s Voyage three out of five stars for the overall climbing quality of the route. The other two routes on the arête are China Grove (5.5) and No Picnic (5.6).

Click here to read about other forest-ranger missions during the week of August 14-20.


About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

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