What follows is the January and February Forest Ranger Activity Report for DEC Region 5, which includes most of the Adirondack region. Although not a comprehensive detailing of all back-country incidents, these reports are issued periodically by the DEC and printed here at the Almanack in their entirety. They are organized by county, and date. You can read previous Forest Ranger Reports here.
These incident reports are a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry and always carry a flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
The Adirondack Almanack reports current outdoor recreation and trail conditions each Thursday evening. Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Conditions Report on Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and on the stations of North Country Public Radio.
Town of Keene, Private Land (Adirondack Mountain Reserve Easement)
On Sunday January 2, 2011, at approximately 4:28 pm, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from Essex County Emergency Dispatch. They transferred a call from a hiker who reported that his hiking partner had slipped and fallen on the ice on the Lake Road. Katie Pangia, 36, of Ticonderoga, NY had twisted her leg and was unable to bear weight on the leg. The gate was locked and Ms. Pangia was two and a half miles in on the road. Adirondack Mountain Reserve was contacted to unlock the gate and DEC Forest Rangers responded by vehicle. Ms. Pangia was transported out by vehicle and stated she would seek medical attention on her own. The incident was resolved by 7:30 pm. Accidents can happen, always carry a first aid kit and know how to obtain assistance in emergency situations. The DEC Forest Ranger emergency phone number is 518-891-0235.
Town of Wilmington, Whiteface Mountain Intensive Unit
On Thursday, January 20, 2011, at approximately 6:20 pm, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from State Police reporting Francisco Varoli, 20, of Lake Placid NY, as overdue from his day on Whiteface Mountain. Mr. Varoli’s mother stated that he called from the summit of Whiteface Mountain at 4:30 pm saying that he was out of energy and could not feel his hands. Mr. Varoli had sprinted up the mountain as part of a training mission for a mountaineering expedition. Four DEC Forest Rangers were dispatched to pick up snowmobiles and respond to the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway. Before the rangers arrived at the highway, State Police attempted to go up the unplowed highway with their 4WD Tahoe. State Police made it up the highway about a mile before encountering Mr. Varoli. He had abandoned his equipment on the summit and was close to giving up. He was turned over to his mother at 8:30 pm, who was waiting at the toll gate of the highway, and she brought him to the emergency room for further evaluation and treatment. Know your abilities and the conditions you will be facing. When training begin easy and progress your training as your physical abilities improve.
Town of Keene, Dix Mountain Wilderness
On Sunday, February 6, 2011 at approximately 12:26 am, DEC Central Dispatch received a phone call reporting that two people had not returned from skiing the slides on Dix Mountain. Christopher Yankee, 35, of Slaterville Springs, NY, and John Armstrong, 21, of Olive Bridge, NY were last seen by the caller around 2:00 pm heading up into the slide area before the caller decided to turn around due to the snow depth. A DEC Forest Ranger responded and searched the possible exit routes from the Dix area but did locate the two skiers. At 2:00 am, resources and plans were developed for the morning’s search operation. At 7:00 am four forest rangers started to break trail into the Dix slides while another ranger checked the local trail heads. At 9:00 am, the two men were located at the South Forks trail head, 3 miles from their vehicle. Both men were in good shape. According to Mr. Yankee and Mr. Armstrong, they skied off Dix Mountain late in the afternoon and ended up going down the wrong side of the mountain. When darkness and heavy snow arrived, they built a snow cave and spent the night. In the morning they skied down the drainage to South Forks. Know the conditions and the weather – turn around if the weather changes. Fortunately, these two men were prepared with the right equipment and knowledge to spend a winter night in the woods.
Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness
On Saturday, February 19, at 6:36 pm DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a short phone call in which the dispatcher heard noise but no voice before the call was disconnected. Moments later another similar call was received. The dispatcher dialed *69 and obtained a cell phone which she called, this time a voice was heard but not clearly. After a number of attempts by both parties a clear signal was obtained and the dispatcher was able to learn that Kent Stephens, 40, of Broadview Heights, OH; Justin Parks, 27, Cleveland, OH; and Calin Pop, 28, of Lakewood, OH were stuck in the Trap Dyke on the side Mt. Colden in the High Peaks Wilderness. The three men had left from the Adirondack Loj trailhead around noon to climb the Trap Dyke and summit Mt. Colden. Darkness, single digit temperatures, winds and exhaustion overtook them and they could no longer proceed. The call was transferred to a DEC Forest Ranger who explained to the three climbers that, due to the winds, a helicopter was not able to fly and their only options were to climb up or climb down. After convincing the three men to begin climbing down, the forest ranger and a second forest ranger used snowmobiles to travel to Avalanche Lake. The DEC Interior Caretaker at Lake Colden was dispatched to the base of the Trap Dyke to get visual contact on the climbers. The forest rangers arrived at 10:09 pm expecting to find the climbers at the base of Trap Dyke. However, the men had descended to the top of an ice/waterfall and stopped there. The forest rangers, using ice climbing gear, ascended to the base of the ice/waterfall and instructed the men on how to rappel down. The group then descended to the base of the Trap Dyke and onto Avalanche Lake at 12:48 am. Forest Rangers transported the three men by snowmobile to the Adirondack Loj parking lot. All parties were out of the woods at 2:22 am. Know your abilities and the conditions you will be facing. Start long distance and technically challenging backcountry trips early – especially in the winter.
Town of Keene, High Peaks Wilderness
On Sunday, February, 20, at 3:07 pm DEC Dispatch received a call from a person at the Adirondack Loj stating that one of his group of hikers was missing after a hike up Mt. Marcy in the High Peaks Wilderness. Katherine Chen, 36, of New York, NY and the rest of the group had left that morning from the Adirondack Loj trailhead to climb Mt. Marcy. However at the junction of the VanHovenberg Trail and the Phelps Trail, approximately 0.6 miles below the summit, Ms. Chen stated she was tired and couldn’t proceed. The rest of the group continued to the summit. When the group returned and didn’t find Ms. Chen they assumed she had returned to the Adirondack Loj. Upon arriving at the Loj trailhead they were unable to locate Ms. Chen and called for assistance. DEC Forest Rangers responded and assumed Ms. Chen had taken the Phelps Trail down the northeast side of the mountain. A forest ranger starting in from the Garden trailhead in Keene Valley received information from others on the trail that they had indeed seen Ms. Chen. At 4:21 pm a radio communication from Adirondack Mountain Club volunteers at John’s Brook Lodge informed the forest rangers that Ms. Chen was at the lodge warming and hydrating. The forest ranger continued to Johns Brook Lodge and escorted Ms. Chen back to the Garden Trailhead. He transported her to Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley where she was reunited with her group at 7:11 pm. Never leave an inexperienced hiker alone. Remain together or at least have an experienced hiker remain to assist the inexperienced hiker.
Town of Harrietstown, High Peaks Wilderness Area
On Thursday, December 30, 2010, at approximately 2:57 pm, DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from Bob Meyer, 65, of Cortland Manor, NY, stating that he was very close to the summit of Ampersand Mountain and that he felt very nauseous and weak. Mr. Meyer stated he would start hiking down, but requested assistance because he felt he might not be able to continue. Three DEC Forest Rangers responded with a sled style litter and chainsaws to cut blowdown. The subject was located approximately 1.25 miles from the trailhead. He was given food and fluids and assisted out to the trailhead. The subject was able to walk out under his own power, but very slowly. All personnel were out of the woods by 5:30 pm. Carry plenty of food and water especially in the winter. Eat and drink often to maintain your strength.
Town of Harrietstown, High Peaks Wilderness Area
On Monday, February 21, at 12:10 am DEC Central Dispatch in Albany received a call from a friend of Scott Molnar, 26, of Doylestown, PA, stating that he had not returned from spending a day snowshoeing in the Adirondacks. Mr. Molnar had planned to spend Saturday hiking the Seward Range in the western portion of the High Peaks Wilderness and was expected to return home by 4:00 pm Sunday. At 5:30 am, nine DEC Forest Rangers met to begin their search for Mr. Molnar. At daylight two additional forest rangers were sent to assist State Police Aviation and serve as spotters in a helicopter. At 8:24 am Mr. Molnar was located coming out of the woods onto Corey’s Road near the Raquette Falls Trailhead. A forest ranger drove him to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, where he was delivered for further evaluation and treatment at approximately 9:15 am. Mr. Molnar reports that he had climbed to the summit of Mt. Emmons on Saturday but the winds and blowing snow were so bad he became disoriented and began descending the west side of the mountain. He followed a drainage area down the mountain, intending to reach his car which was parked on the Corey’s Road. At one point he fell into a brook, becoming wet almost to his waist. Unable to start a fire he spent Saturday night under a tree covered only by an emergency space blanket. On Sunday morning, using a compass, he once again began hiking towards Corey’s Road. He hiked all day and through the night until he was located Monday morning. Know the expected weather conditions and plan accordingly, turn back if conditions warrant. Carry a sleeping bag or bivy sack even on day trips, you never know when you will spend a night in the woods. Fortunately the hiker was in good shape and did have a map and compass that he used to get back.
Town of Lake Pleasant, Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands
On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, at approximately 10:20am, a DEC Forest Ranger overheard Hamilton County 911 report that there was a snowmobile accident on a snowmobile trail on the Perkins Clearing Conservation Easement Lands. When the forest ranger arrived he learned that it wasn’t a snowmobile accident, but actually one of Lake Pleasant’s trail groomers had run over Randy LaVarnway, 41, of Lake Pleasant, NY, while he was working on the machine. According to Tom Germain, an eye witness to the accident, Mr. LaVarnway was trying to get the groomer started when Mr. Germain hit the starter. When the machine started it rolled over the lower half of Mr. LaVarnway’s body. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded and assisted the ambulance squad with packaging and transporting the subject. Mr. LaVarnway was transported to a helicopter and flown to Albany Medical Center for treatment at 12:30 pm.
Town of Johnsburg, Siamese Ponds Wilderness
On Saturday, February 12, 2011, at approximately 4:20pm, a DEC Forest Ranger received information at the Old Farm Road trailhead about two potentially overdue skiers. Theadore Wright Jr., 85, and Susan Wright, 75, both of Niskayuna, NY, were part of an Adirondack Mountain Club outing group skiing the Botheration Loop Trail, but they had not returned as expected. While on routine ski patrol in the area earlier that day, the Forest Ranger had seen the two skiers at the north end of Botheration Pond, approximately 4 miles into an 8 mile round trip. They had been moving, although slowly. The Forest Ranger began searching by skiing from the Old Farm Road trailhead to the Garnet Hill intersection to no avail. He then proceeded to search the William Blake Pond trail where he located the two Wrights traveling without light and falling frequently. The forest ranger provided the two skiers with headlamps and assisted them out of the woods. They reached the trailhead safely at 7:50 pm. Stay in your group, always have experienced people leading and following the group. Carry a flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries.