Monday, June 1, 2015

Canadian Hiker Drowns In Raging Feldspar Brook

The body of a Canadian hiker who drowned in a raging Feldspar Brook while hiking in the High Peaks on Saturday has been recovered. State Police say that 34-year-old Julie Belanger of Montreal, Quebec, and a female hiking companion had been hiking Skylight and Grey mountains. A localized deluge of rain accompanied a line of violent storms that passed through the Adirondacks on Saturday and quickly raised the levels of local rivers and streams.

Belanger fell off a log and into the swift water of Feldspar Brook, a tributary of the Opalescent River in the Town of North Elba, and was swept away by the current of the flooded waters.

The incident was not reported to DEC Forest Rangers until Sunday morning, State Police said. A DEC Interior Caretaker located Belanger’s body early Sunday afternoon. State Police Aviation and New York State Forest Rangers hoisted Belanger’s body around 7 pm and flew her body to the Lake Placid Airport where she was pronounced dead by Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw.

Police said Belanger’s body was then removed to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake where an autopsy was performed this morning by Dr. C Francis Varga. Dr. Varga determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation due to fresh water drowning. Coroner Whitelaw ruled the manner of death to be accidental.

A Flood Watch has been issued by the National Weather Service for the AuSale and Boquet Rivers and their tributaries. Fledspar Brook flows into the Opalescent River above the Flowed Lands.

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15 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Why wasn’t this actually reported to rangers on Saturday? That seems pretty weird. She fell into Feldspar Brook and they found her body near Lake Arnold. Does the Opalescent river flow into Lake Arnold?

  2. Hawthorn says:

    Something’s not right in the report. The Opalescent River is downhill from Lake Arnold. Looking at an old topo I have handy it looks like Lake Arnold is around 3772 ft and where Feldspar Brook meets the Opalescent is around 3319 ft.

    • John Warren says:

      Hi Hawthorn,

      The confusion arises from the State Police’s description. Since “near Lake Arnold” implies it was actually very near Lake Arnold, and not just on Feldspar Brook NEAR Lake Arnold, I’ve removed that.

  3. MudRat says:

    I was camped at Slant Rock after climbing in Panther Gorge on Saturday. We arrived back at the L2 just as it heated up. Path next to Slant Rock became a 2′ deep stream while Johns Brook was a deadly torrent about 5′ deep. Trail runner from Ottowa was trapped after coming from Haystack and spent night with us. Lighting and water levels were severe. Very sad to hear this woman was a casualty.

    • scottvanlaer says:

      Thanks for taking care of the trail runner!

      • Paul says:

        I have seen people trail running in there sometimes with nothing more than running shorts and running shoes. Not even a shirt! Saw a guy going up Wrights Peak like that last summer. Seems pretty crazy to me. I guess you just have to count on someone helping you out if you run into trouble.

      • MudRat says:

        It was a pleasure and a team effort! Take a look at the following video during the height of the flood (around 8 pm). I know you know that Johns Brook is ankle deep, but those who aren’t familiar need to realize that it went from ankle to chest deep in less than an hour.

        • Kate says:

          Wow. That video speaks volumes about how things can change so quickly and dramatically. Thank you for posting it.

        • Paul says:

          Not quite as crazy as Irene, but still pretty impressive. Was there any washouts downstream? I know there were concerns that some of the post-Irene work may have lead to problems. Maybe that has been mitigated.

        • NoTrace says:

          No F-ing way you’re getting across that brook – at least alive and in one piece!

  4. Hawthorn says:

    I looked at the weather radar to see what we were going to get well south of there and I remember thinking it would be miserable in the High Peaks judging from what I could see. The power of water can be deceiving, and the rapidity with which it can rise can catch anyone by surprise. By the way, one advantage of the classic paper topo map is that you can much more quickly assess the nature of the terrain where you are located in such a case, and possibly more easily come up with a sensible alternate route that won’t be blocked by flood waters. It is great to be able to get the big picture and great detail at the same time compared to what you can see on a GPS or smartphone screen. Sometimes you just have to wait.

  5. John Warren says:

    What’s really remarkable is that waters have been very low due to persistent drought. This was caused by a single line of storms, not days of rain.

  6. Richard Hachem says:


    I’m writing here for the archives.

    I’m the runner rescued by MudRat and I have filmed what happened. I was stuck between Haystack and Little Haystack for 1 hours waiting for the lighting to stop, but it never did. The storm even got worse. I didn’t know about the Shorey Shortcut, but used my map to get to Slant Rock leant-to. I didn’t expect to get stuck and temperatures to dip so low. It was almost record high 82 when I left. I had just bought a safety blanket for these kind of exceptional storms, but forgot it in the car because I was in a hurry to start before it would be too late in the day.

    I did one dangerous crossing of the lodge, but didn’t even dare for the second.

    I wanted to keep the video private, but decided to release it after all.
    And here is the tracklog showing temperature evolution:

    I spent the night shivering, but in good company. They gave me a safety blanked, fleece and hat. I’d like to think I would have survived the night, but it would have been a much more terrible experience. Not having the safety blanked was a big mistake. Going for the run knowing a thunderstorm could happen unprepared for the consequences was by far the biggest mistake.

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