Monday, September 18, 2017

Body of Missing Hiker Found Near Wallface Pond

Alex Stevens, Hiker Missing Sept 2017State Police and Forest Rangers have announced that around noon Monday, September 18, 2017, the body of missing hiker Alex Stevens was located in the vicinity of Wallface Mountain, near Wallface Pond.

Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw responded to the scene and authorized the removal of the body to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for an autopsy expected to take place Tuesday.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers and the New York State Police have been searching for Stevens since September 10th, when he was reported missing by a family member.

Agencies involved in the search are DEC Forest Rangers, New York State Police, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks, Stowe Mountain Rescue, the Adirondack Amateur Radio Association, Newcomb Fire Department, the Town of Newcomb, and Newcomb Central School. Several other volunteers have also been on scene assisting with the search efforts.

In a statement to the press, DEC, NYSP, and DHSES thanked volunteer search and rescue groups, as well as the town of Newcomb, Newcomb Fire Department, and Newcomb Central School who contributed to the search effort.

A New York State Police investigation continues.


Editorial Staff

Stories under the Almanack's Editorial Staff byline come from press releases and other notices. To have your news noticed here at the Almanack contact our editor John Warren at adkalmanack@gmail.com.




55 Responses

  1. Phil B says:

    Heading out alone sounds like a good idea, but, in reality, is just one bad step away from a bad, and sometimes fatal, outcome. Phones are good when they work. Friends are forever.

  2. Boreas says:

    Terrible. My condolences to his family and friends. Thanks to the search crews as well.

  3. Justin Farrell says:

    Damn…sad news, my condolences to friends and family.
    It’ll be interesting to learn what may have happened, and if some sort of permit system might help prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future, as the early reports mentioned that he seemed unprepared for a 3 night stay in the High Peaks region. Seems like being unprepared is often the case in the Monthly DEC Ranger reports.

    • Paul says:

      So sorry to hear this. John I would remove Justin’s comment before any of his friends or family see this. Obviously no time to say any such thing.

      • Justin Farrell says:

        I have no problems with that. Apologies for sharing my thoughts on the matter as it has been currently reported. I thought that I had read in an earlier report about being unprepared, and how the monthly DEC reports (posted on this website) often result in S&R.
        No disrepct intended, just hoping for a way to help prevent similar situations from occurring in the popular High Peaks region yet again in the future. If now is not the time, then when is? – Justin

        • Paul says:

          I was thinking once we knew more about what happened. A permit system would do nothing if he just took a tragic fall. You hike alone like I do sometimes (and I think you may do as well) all the prep in the world can’t prevent that.

          • Justin Farrell says:

            Agreed. It’ll be interesting to know what exactly happened, and how we can help prevent similar situations from occuring again in future. John please feel free to delete my comments.
            – Justin

      • Charlie S says:

        The one unfortunate thing about being of the conservative persuasion is the close-mindedness that comes with it, the innate desire to suppress others because of this. I’m sure you’re a good person Paul but your narrow views send thrills up and down my spine. Your comment in response to Justin’s missive is way off the mark. Open up a little Paul! Get a little liberal in you. You’d be surprised at how many new doors will open!

    • Taras says:

      If we’re going to propose preventive solutions, let’s not delve into speculation but consider a time-honored solution that does work, namely leaving one’s itinerary, and deadline, with a responsible individual.

      If you fail to contact them by the deadline, they call the DEC and report you overdue. It’s a mistake to skip this proven, and often recommended, practice.

      The DEC has a very good track record of finding people (usually alive) within 48 hours of being reported missing … provided they are notified ASAP and not, as in Alex Stevens unfortunate case, 6 days *after* his 3-day trip.

      My condolences to his family and friends and apologies for using his death as an example of a mistake. I hope the return of Alex’s mortal remains will provide you with closure and some solace. He left this world too soon.

  4. LEW says:

    Thanks to the searchers who put their lives on the line. Something has to change in the High Peaks. Awful realities often bring to light uncomfortable truths.

  5. Therese Plante says:

    I am so sorry that Alex was found this way. I prayed for him to be found alive. God bless him and his loved ones. Rest In Peace

  6. Gwenn Fairall says:

    As a friend of the family, I would appreciate these comments being taken down before the family sees them. I understand that you do not want this happening again. None of us do, but as a friend of the family, I can easily say that waiting no more than 4 hours to respond with shoulda-woulda-couldas doesn’t help his devastated family and friends -many of which have not even received the news yet. I understand you want to make a positive difference in the long run, but think about how he was a brother, a son, and a friend before launching off into “this could’ve be prevented”. Thank you.

    • Ann says:

      This is awful,my heartfelt condolences to the family. When it comes to a tragedy it brings out the stupid in people! I know first hand how hurtful they can be.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Understood. I send my apologies, thoughts, & prayers for the loss of a loved one. May he rest in peace. Love & hugs. Hats off to the rangers & volunteers who put in so much time and effort.
      -Justin

      • Charlie S says:

        You said nothing wrong Justin! You owe no apologies. People who aren’t well read don’t read into things too well…a lot of misunderstanding’s and unnecessary conflicts because of this. Believe me I know! I read what you wrote over again to be sure…..you said nothing wrong! You owe no apologies!

    • NoTrace says:

      I don’t think the Adirondack Almanack or any other publication should ever be in the position to “take down comments” solely because they might be hurtful, even in situations like this.

      The fact is, the comments are on point, and if they prevent a similar tragedy, then Alex’s life was not in vain. He made mistakes – that’s obvious; it’s learning the painful lessons that is the hard part, and we shouldn’t avoid that.

      • JohnL says:

        Common decency says not to say or write things that you think might cause pain to loved ones of those lost. And, if they could prevent a tragedy like this right now, they could probably prevent a tragedy like this a few days from now.

  7. Melissa Heshmat says:

    So sorry! This is a sad day. Thanks to all who searched for him.

  8. daniel M says:

    Thank you DEC N ADK TRAIL WORKERS N Rangers for all your hard work .Always let people know where you are hiking and how long you plan on being out . Am always hiking alone I have for the last 35 years .

  9. M.P. Heller says:

    Maybe his friends and family can use this tragedy to help educate others. Are they currently devistated and emotional over the situation? I’m assuming most definitely so, and for that I express my sympathy to his loved ones.

    The question is what happens next. Will this all be forgotten about in a few weeks or months, or will this tragic event be a catalyst for education and perhaps an opportunity to get the word out that the Adirondack terrain is not to be taken lightly?

    I hope what happened to Alex can be avoided in the future. I’m not terribly sure how to help make these types of searches a thing of the past, but something must certainly be done in an effort to curtail the frequency that we have recently been seeing these events.

    A backcountry license, permitting, permanent closure of public lands. I don’t care. The state needs to act. It infuriates me that often some of the loudest opponents to such ideas are not even US citizens or citizens of NY. This is a NY issue for NY residents and government to sort out. The rest of you, respectfully, need to STFU about it. You are guests in our state/country, and while often times we love hosting you, this is our issue to sort out not yours.

  10. Tim-Brunswick says:

    “Jim S.” is on the money with his “inappropriate” comment. M.P. Heller’s comments RE: the State stepping in is ridiculous and I won’t say anything more. God rest Mr. Stevens and all my sympathy to his Family.

  11. Boreas says:

    All,

    Let’s save our knee-jerk reactions to discuss the accident and solutions for a possible follow-up article after a respectful period of time. Waiting until we have more details would be wise as well. For now let’s focus on the tragedy and Alex’s family and friends.

  12. Charlie S says:

    M.P. Heller says: “The question is what happens next. Will this all be forgotten about in a few weeks or months, or will this tragic event be a catalyst for education and perhaps an opportunity to get the word out that the Adirondack terrain is not to be taken lightly?”

    According to some of the comments above it could be the former M.P. Certain people are trying to shut others up already when all’s they’re doing is putting their thoughts out! Heaven forbid we speak what’s really on our concerned minds!

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I agree Charlie. It’s a horrible tragedy to be sure, but it’s also a teachable moment. Isn’t it?

      If we wait until it’s too late to have the discussion, the impact of the event loses some of its strength and little that is positive ends up happening as a result. There is plenty of history that supports this.

      I’m not accusing Alex of anything. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know what happened. What I do know is that it’s tragic and if there is a way we can reduce the frequency of these events that we should all be looking for that way. It’s been happening too much in recent years and often times we find that it was avoidable. Hua Davis comes readily to mind. (Not too soon to talk about her, right?)

      As far as those who think that it’s “inappropriate” to be having such a conversation. Let them think it. They obviously have nothing constructive to add other than to point the finger. The shame is on them, not those seeking a solution.

      • Jim S says:

        Waiting for details before reacting makes sense to me. There is nothing certain to teach at this time. It is a time for mourning and reflection.

        • Charlie S says:

          There is always something to teach (and learn) and at any time Jim S., and when it comes to mourning and reflecting….that never goes away with me as I am always in that mode. Always!

        • Taras says:

          Details reported so far by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

          – Reported overdue 6 days after his planned return. He was on Wallface for 9 days before the DEC was notified.

          – Evidence suggests he camped atop Wallface. Therefore he ran into trouble during the descent.

          – The first of his three days had pleasant weather and then it turned foul for several days afterward.

          – He had no compass nor means of starting a fire.

          – He was located at an elevation of ~2900 feet just ~0.6 miles WNW of Wallface’s summit (height is ~3700 feet). Effectively, he had descended ~800 feet but in the wrong direction.

          Once the coroner releases his report, the cause and time of death will be known.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Here’s a confirmed detail for you. He didn’t have a compass in his possession at the time. Folks need to be taught that a compass is an essential piece of equipment in the backcountry. Always carry one. Know how to use it. It doesn’t matter if you leave it in your pack at all times and forget that it’s there, just have it with you, you will remember when you need it.

          People mourn and reflect in different ways. You don’t have a monopoly on what constitutes a proper response from others. Help people learn from this terrible event. Too many folks are going out there and getting hurt or killed in recent years. Enough is enough. It’s time for change. It has to start with discussion and education. There is no two ways about it.

  13. Charlie S says:

    Justin Farrell says: “as the early reports mentioned that he seemed unprepared for a 3 night stay in the High Peaks region.”

    This morning’s Times Union states ‘Stevens brought a hammock instead of a sleeping bag and apparently was not prepared to spend a lot of time in the backcountry.’

    Justin spoke the truth. The Times Union spoke the truth. But let us scold and criticize those who wish to speakum truth so that reality is excluded from the conversation. So that we might not learn some thing!

  14. Taras says:

    Coroner has issued his report:

    “… died from bronchial pneumonia resulting from a lack of food, a constant wet environment and the cold”

    http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/news/local-news/2017/09/hiker-died-of-pneumonia-after-2-weeks-in-wilderness/

    Just terrible. He was a budding hiker and his death touches all who explore the wilderness. My heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.

    • gebby says:

      I’ve read so few reports on Wallface hikes, leading me to believe that it is not within the wheelhouse for “budding hikers”. Very sad.

  15. Max W says:

    Rest in peace old friend. Enjoy the next journey, im sure we will cross paths again! I enjoyed our long nights of musical emmersion in our youth. You had such an ecclectic taste! The citars, guitars, and digeridoos are playing for you. My heart goes out to all our loved ones in the borough, facing this detachment. What a way to go, lost in that natural splendor, facing every emotion known to man, you wouldnt have had it any other way! You will be missed dearly, and always remembered.

    • Boreas says:

      Max,

      My condolences for the loss of your friend. It appears you knew Alex fairly well – perhaps you could shed some light on Alex’s hiking & outdoor experience. Was hiking something new for him? Had he hiked in the Adirondack High Peaks before? Was he an experienced camper? Was he experienced in the outdoors or was this fairly new to him?

      Sorry if this seems intrusive, but I am just trying to formulate a mind-picture of what may have happened and what may have gone wrong. Again, sorry for the loss of your friend.

  16. Justin Farrell says:

    If my calculations are correct from DEC reports over the past two months, there have been 12 incidents reported of unpreprared hikers requiring rescue or recovery from the High Peaks region via 911, and 8 incidents of injured hikers requesting help via 911.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but there must be a better solution than relying on a cell phone in case you run into some trouble.

  17. mike says:

    I thought of Steven all weekend. I constantly checked the news for any word. Monday was not a good day.

    I had moved my hike/backpacking trip this past weekend from the very same area from Wallface/Indian Pass due not wanting to interfere with the search and/or be turned away at Upper Works.

    I did Indian Pass in mid April one year, and it was treacherous. And although September conditions wouldn’t have the snow pack I encountered, they would have possibly less water in higher elevations…along with all the other conditions September can bring.

    My thoughts are with his family and friends.

    We can only hope people will learn from this.

  18. Jim says:

    Please, no second guessing about this tragedy.
    The man died doing what he loved to do.
    My condolences to friends and family.

    • Neil Luckhurst Neil Luckhurst says:

      “The man died doing what he loved to do.”

      He died a slow and lingering death suffering from hypothermia and severe pneumonia while being lost.

      I can’t imagine anyone “loving to do” that while they die. In fact I doubt anyone would consider the process of dying as being something they “love to do”, no matter where they might find themselves for the last time, ever.

      • Paul says:

        Obviously – he meant being in the mountains. What a silly (or maybe mean) comment. Someone I skied with in Alaska died in the AK backcountry skiing in an avalanche. He was doing what he loved (and man was he good!) but his death was probably excruciating. Neil, you know what he meant.

    • Taras says:

      “The man died doing what he loved to do.”

      The number one worthless and wrong-headed platitude.

      At the moment of your death you’re highly unlikely to be thinking “And while I’m doing what I love! Aren’t I lucky!”

      Don’t attribute this falsehood to the dead just because they expired during a favorite pastime. They’d easily wish to die another day, farther in the future, maybe even while doing something they despise.

      He went hiking and died in a very unpleasant manner. It’s nothing short of tragic.

      • Jim says:

        We can discuss this forever,
        The man died.
        He obviously chose to hike alone, whether prepared or not.
        Personally, I would rather leave this life on a remote mountain than wasting away in a hospital.

  19. Frank Sarat says:

    I know next to nothing about Alex Stevens. But I am sure that I share some essential character traits with this young man. His “selfie” published in the media wants to talk to me. Something led him to recently die alone, forty years my junior, to the northwest of Wallface Mountain.
    When I was in my twenties and thirties, I wandered solo a number of times close to those rugged environs. Some people need to be by themselves on select occasions. And not just on a park bench on a sunny afternoon. Is that a good idea? I love being by myself, way out there. Sometimes my psyche need this drug. And it works. Loneliness has a different feeling out there. I’m not a top-notch woodsman, but errors and time have sharpened my ability to keep myself alive and happy during many solo excursions. Only recently have I thought of that as anything but an entirely personal question. Now I struggle with the dilemma brought on by considerations of how my actions might be selfish.
    I have traversed the boulder-strewn path of Indian Pass several times. It’s been decades since I read the excellent novel Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. Somehow that old reading has lead me to believe that the Indian Pass trail was used in the 1840’s or thereabouts to lead escaped blacks up to John Brown’s free farm in North Elba. It seems that the slave bounty hunters had the Lake Champlain ports close in their sights and Brown needed something more clandestine. That would be Indian Pass traversing Wallface’s shadow and scree.
    When I was about Alex’s age, something enticed me to pack up the steep corduroy trail heading northwest from the Pass Trail past Scott Pond and then to the Wallface Ponds. No one was talking to me. The rain came down hard and I spent noon till midnight secure in my tiny tent reading Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. That was a profound experience, happening less than a mile from the red X marked a couple days ago by the sheriff on their search map. I had stared with flashlight at my soggy topo map and come a clear dawn, on a lark I followed a compass heading a couple miles further northwest until I hit Roaring Brook. I bushwhacked, waded, and floundered downstream a couple more miles until I hit the NLP trail and followed it to spend the night at a splendid Duck Hole lean-to.
    A year or two latter I saw a lady trekking up to Scott Pond and followed her that far, thinking she was laboring up there by herself just to find me. No surprise, she wasn’t. I got it into my fool head to make it back down to Indian Pass by following Indian Pass Brook, which on the map looks shorter than the trail I had just walked heading off a little more north. That may have been poor judgment. Some hapless Ranger may recently have been assigned to go that way, but few others have. I got down a couple waterfalls by shimmying down a well-positioned tree trunk.
    Someone might make a remark about suicidal tendencies. I don’t know. But it’s a fine memory. Alex, I wish I had met you. But guys like me don’t meet so many people. Ah, wilderness.

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