By Phil Brown
Two rock climbers from the New York City area were ticketed this month for scaling routes at Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain that had been closed to protect peregrine falcons.
The climbers—a woman from the city and a man from Bernardsville, New Jersey, both in their early 30s—face a fine of up to $250 each for ignoring a sign about the route closures, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
They were ticketed on Saturday, April 11, after climbing several closed routes on the mountain’s cliffs, said DEC spokesman David Winchell. They are due in court on May 11.
Poke-O-Moonshine is one of the premier rock-climbing destinations in the Adirondacks, with more than 300 routes, but DEC usually closes part of the cliff in the spring to allow peregrines to nest undisturbed. On April 8, the department announced that most of the routes on Poke-O would be closed until further notice. Routes on eight other Adirondack cliffs are also off limits to climbers.
Peregrine falcons disappeared from New York State in the 1960s, victims of DDT poisoning. Although on the rebound, they remain an endangered species in the state. The raptors nest on cliff ledges and reach speeds of up to 180 miles an hour when diving for prey.
DEC monitors nesting sites each spring before deciding which cliffs to close. Typically, the cliffs are reopened in the summer after the nesting season—or earlier if a pair fails to breed. The Adirondack Climbers’ Coalition supports the peregrine program and helps monitor the birds.
“The ACC asks all climbers to follow the cliff/route closures that are put in place by the DEC,” said Will Roth, the organization’s president. “The ACC is also encouraging all climbers to stay home and recreate locally during the covid-19 pandemic.”
Before this month, climbers had not been ticketed for non-compliance since the early 2000s, Winchell said.