Sunday, November 30, 2014

Climbers Seek State Land Master Plan Recognition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1971, the year before the State Land Master Plan was adopted, Trudy Healy published the second edition of A Climber’s Guide to the Adirondacks. It was a slim, staple-bound booklet that described about seventy rock-climbing routes.

Last year, Jeremy Haas and Jim Lawyer published the second edition of Adirondack Rock, a two-volume affair with descriptions of more than three thousand routes. In addition, other authors are working on guidebooks for bouldering and slide climbing in the Adirondack Park.

Haas points to these books as evidence of the growth in popularity of technical climbing and mountaineering since the early 1970s. He and other climbers are hoping the Adirondack Park Agency recognizes this growth when it considers amendments to the State Land Master Plan.

The master plan now contains only a few sporadic references to rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. It includes mountaineering in a list of “forms of primitive and unconfined recreation” that are permitted in Wilderness Areas. Some others are hiking, fishing, ski touring, birding, and snowshoeing. These types of recreation are allowed throughout the Forest Preserve.

Haas would like mountaineering to be given more prominence. The plan, he suggests, should specify that mountaineering activities include rock climbing, ice climbing, slide climbing, bouldering, and ski mountaineering.

“There are plenty of people who think mountaineering is trudging up a High Peak with crampons and maybe an ice ax,” Haas said. “This is just to clarify that it is more than that.”

Haas said climbers contribute to the regional economy—by hiring guides, patronizing gear shops, and dining and lodging in the Park—but tend to get overlooked. “We don’t need a license, we don’t need a permit, we don’t necessarily have to sign in at trailheads,” he said. “We’re not that visible because our cliffs are often pretty obscure.”

Besides giving climbers of all stripes greater recognition, Haas said, the amendment would accomplish two things.

First, it would encourage officials in the state Department of Environmental Conservation to take note of cliffs, slides, and other mountaineering resources when writing management plans for Forest Preserve tracts and, when necessary, recommend ways to remedy or prevent environmental degradation.

Second, if mountaineering resources were recognized in management plans, Haas said, DEC could issue permits to volunteers to maintain approach paths and descent paths, keeping climbers from trampling vegetation, and control erosion at the base of cliffs.

“There are places that have been overused for a decade or two that are desperately in need of attention,” Haas said.

Fred Monroe, executive director the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, sees no problem with the proposed amendment, but said he will need to discuss it with his board before offering a formal endorsement.

The review board has its own wish list, including several proposed amendments to improve or expand recreation in the Park.

The APA is receiving comments on the master plan through December 5. They can be emailed to or sent to Kathy Regan, APA Deputy Director, P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977.

All of the Almanack‘s stories about revisions to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan can be found here.

Photo by Phil Brown: Mike Virtanen tops out on Pete’s Farewell near the Cascade Lakes.



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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Sure why not add wordage for mountaineers? (Not to be confused with the Saranac Lake ruby variety!)

  2. Steve says:

    Doesn’t the state prohibit storing personal property on forest preserve. I think it would be good to clarify whether leaving anchors in rocks is legal. There are lots of places to rock climb in the north east, it seems like forest preserve, particularly wilderness, where man is only a visitor, should provide the unadulterated rock climbing experience.

    The state may also also consider closing some routes to reduce environmental impacts and social carying capacity of having larger crowds climbing in one area. Right now, it is kind of
    Unregulated so I say go for it. Add it to the plan, but it may have unintended consequences.

  3. Paul says:

    There should be registers for some of these climbing spots. It is important to keep track of the use so that the climbers can get their fair share when it comes to maintenance funds etc.

    Many users are not tracked very well. The same goes for fishermen and hunters in many well used areas that are not part of a “hiking” area or canoe area.