A rock climber was flown to a Vermont hospital after suffering severe injuries in a 60-foot fall from a cliff on Pitchoff Mountain on Monday afternoon. State Police identified the victim as Kyle R. Ciarletta, 22, of Eagleville, PA.
Ciarletta fell after climbing a difficult route known as Roaches on the Wall, said David Winchell, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Winchell attributed the accident to miscommunication between Ciarletta and his belayer, a 23-year-old woman from Norristown, PA.
Winchell said Ciarletta expected to be lowered by rope from the top of the cliff, but his belayer, who was at the base of the route, thought he planned to rappel and so presumably let go of the rope.
“The climber and the belayer were not in sight of one another, and the belayer could not hear the climber clearly,” Winchell said in an email to Adirondack Almanack. “The belayer heard the climber say one word and assumed he wanted her to take him off belay.”
He added that the two had both rappelled after climbing a route earlier in the day.
Essex County received the emergency call at 3:42 p.m. State Police, DEC personnel, and rescue squads from Keene and Keene Valley all went to the scene. Ciarletta was taken to Marcy Field in Keene and then flown by Life-Net to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where he was listed in critical condition. The hospital said he was in the intensive-care unit today.
On the Facebook page Adirondack Rock Climbing, climbers said the accident underscores the importance of agreeing on a descent plan before undertaking a climb.
Pitchoff Chimney Cliff overlooks Lower Cascade Lake and lies along Route 73. Motorists often can see climbers on the cliff as they drive past. The guidebook Adirondack Rock lists 45 climbing routes, most ranging in difficulty from 5.8 (moderate) to 5.12 (hard) on the Yosemite Decimal System scale. Roaches on the Wall is rated 5.10 and considered to be one of the best routes on the cliff.
Photo by Phil Brown: Pitchoff Chimney Cliff in Cascade Pass.