Risky climb leads to 2 recent rescues in July
By Megan Plete Postol
On July 31, a team of rangers and guides performed a complicated wilderness rescue of a stranded hiker on the Mount Colden Trap Dike; the second of its kind there in less than a month.
According to New York State Department of Conservation (DEC), a report came in around 5:30 p.m. to the DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch that a 22 year old a hiker needed help in the vicinity of Avalanche Pass, in the Mount Colden Trap Dike, which is located in the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
The hiker, from Johnson City, reported an unstable lower leg injury and believed he could not advance.
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Forest Ranger Lt. Kevin Burns requested a New York State Police Aviation Unit to assist with transporting a technical rescue team, consisting of Crew Chief Peter Evans, Ranger Robbi Mecus, and Ranger Robert Praczkajlo, and two local volunteer climbers, Kevin MacKenzie and Tyler Mallette, to the base of the Trap Dike.
At 8 p.m., the Aviation Unit and rangers located the hiker on a ledge just north of the Trap Dike. Praczkajlo was lowered down to the hiker’s location and determined the hiker to be uninjured, however, the hiker was in a compromised location that required a technical rope rescue. Mecus led the climbers up from the bottom of the Trap Dike to Praczkajlo and the hiker. Both rangers assisted in belaying and lowering the hiker to safety. The rescue team continued their ascent of the Trap Dike and assisted with safely evacuating the hiker.
By 11 p.m., the hiker was reunited with his hiking companion and the evacuation was declared complete. A second team consisting of six rangers, two assistant forest rangers, and the Lake Colden caretaker that had assembled with additional equipment in preparation for a carryout were cleared of the incident and proceeded to respond to a different rescue on the nearby Mount Van Hoevenberg trail.
More about the Trap Dike
- Climbing it is an exhilarating, potentially risky scramble
- From 2011, a look at the changes to the Trap Dike after Hurricane Irene
Will Roth ascends the Trap Dike, a cross between a hike and a climb. Photo by Phil Brown.
“Rescues in the Trap Dike involve much more complex technical rescue techniques and increased risk to all those involved compared to our usual trail rescues,” said Region 5 Forest Ranger Captain Christopher Kostoss. “It is often debated on social media forums whether this is a hike or a climb. Either way, a fall or accident in the Trap Dike could mean a long duration rescue event and, worst case, could prove to be fatal.”
“It is often debated on social media forums whether this is a hike or a climb. Either way, a fall or accident in the Trap Dike could mean a long duration rescue event and, worst case, could prove to be fatal.”— DEC Region 5 Forest Ranger Captain Christopher Kostoss
Earlier in July, a team rescued a 59-year-old woman from Greenwich, Connecticut, who had sustained a lower leg injury from a fall while climbing the Trap Dike. Five forest rangers, four assistant rangers, and two volunteer climbers responded to assist.
“DEC has seen an increased number of rescues in the Trap Dike over the past decade or so,” Kostoss said. “This may be attributed to the general increase in hiker activity and the increased use of social media hiking forums. It is common for individuals to document and post about their adventures on the forest preserve. Unfortunately, some of these postings motivate inexperienced hikers to undertake routes beyond their capability, which can lead to complex and dangerous rescues for everyone involved. Forest rangers have seen injuries within the dike itself as well as climbers who exit the dike ‘off route’ and find themselves stuck on a ledge without the climbing experience to get themselves out.”
That was the case last summer when two hikers needed to be rescued after they exited the Trap Dike too soon and became stranded on the south side, requiring a hoist rescue to bring the hikers safely down.
When in doubt, use a guide
The Mount Colden Trap Dike, which is located in the town of Keene (Essex County), is a steep, rocky route to a 4,715-foot Adirondack High Peak. Washed out by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the climb in its current state is sometimes steep, even vertical in some spots, and exposed. It includes a tricky mix of hiking and scrambling. The Trap Dike is classified as a Class 4 climb in the guidebook Adirondack Rock, which has a classification system based on the Yosemite Decimal System. A Class 4 climb is often considered to be more of a climbing or mountaineering route than a hiking trail. The Trap Dike is not a beginner-friendly trek; it is only recommended for very skillful adventurers that have some rock climbing experience.
“The best advice is to utilize an experienced licensed guide to safely assist in enjoying the Trap Dike,” Kostoss said. “Additionally, this route should be avoided in periods following rain events and is best climbed when dry. It is essentially a waterfall, and increased runoff makes it much more difficult and even treacherous to climb.”
The Trap Dike route is not an official trail, Kostoss said.
“In fact, it is not a trail at all,” Kostoss said. “This route is classified as a rock-climbing route and preparation and safety should be planned specifically for this type of activity. This route should be avoided by those who do not have rock climbing experience and equipment like a climbing rope and helmet. Without the proper equipment, this route can be life threatening. There are numerous trails that lead to the summit of Mount Colden and provide a much more enjoyable, yet still challenging experience for hikers.”
Those trails, and more information about responsible hiking, can be found online at https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28708.html under HikeSmartNY.
Rock climbing basics
Check out this overview of how to get started in rock climbing