Below are specific comments submitted to the DEC on the draft Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP.
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
December 7, 2017
DEC PO Box 296/ 1115 State Route 86
Ray Brook, NY 12977
Dear Mr. Guglielmi,
I’m writing you on behalf of the Adirondack Climbers Coalition (ACC) in response to the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan (UMP). The ACC represents rock and ice climbers throughout the Adirondack Park.
The ACC has looked at the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP and come up with wording that we would like to see both added and deleted from the UMP. A summary of what the ACC would like the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP to look like will be read and submitted at the December 7, 2017 public comment meeting. Attached below is specifically what the ACC would like the wording in the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP to look like with regard to rock and ice climbers.
Local rock and ice climbers want to make the DEC aware that the ACC wants to be a part of the proposed focus group looking at developing a park-wide policy on the management of fixed anchors on Forest Preserve lands.
The Adirondack Climbers Coalition looks forward to working with the DEC. If there are any questions about the attached proposed changes to the proposed Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP please feel free to contact me directly at (C) or (E) . Thank you for taking the time to review the attached.
Proposed Changes to the draft Sentinel Range Wilderness Area UMP
Insertions in green.
Deletions in strikethrough red.
Rock climbing is listed, but not ice climbing. Ice climbing, while under the umbrella of “technical climbing”, occurs in the winter and often uses different cliffs, parking, and approaches. Hence, it should be specifically mentioned and addressed in the UMP.
Known uses of the unit include hiking, hunting, trapping, rock climbing, ice climbing, camping, and cross country skiing.
There is an outdated, out-of-print, 22-year-old reference listed, when newer references are available which are more relevant. The DEC now references these sources for peregrine closures. These sources are also up-to-date with respect to cliff descriptions and rock/ice climbing routes at the various locations in the Sentinel region.
MELLOR, D. 1995. CLIMBING IN THE ADIRONDACKS: A GUIDE TO ROCK AND ICE ROUTES IN THEADIRONDACK PARK. ADIRONDACK MOUNTAIN CLUB: LAKE GEORGE, NY.
Lawyer, J and Haas, J. 2014. Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climbers Guide, Second Edition. Adirondack Rock Press: Pompey, NY.
Mellor, D. 2016. Blue Lines 2. The Mountaineer: Keene Valley, NY.
Climbers definitely use non-standard access points, and it should be noted.
Recreational use is difficult to measure. There are only four developed trail heads in the
SRWA, however the public can enter the unit at various other locations. Hikers, rock and ice climbers and hunters are known to enter the unit from Route 73 at the southern boundary of the unit, along Route 86 and River Road on the western boundary of the unit, and off of Bartlett
Road in the eastern portion of the unit. In addition, Mountain Lane and Alstead Hill Road provides access to the southern portion of the unit in North Elba and Keene respectively.
When describing the land resources, a more complete inventory of climbing areas should be listed. The following table shows the known climbing areas and attempts to rate their use (none, low, high).
|Area||# Summer Routes||# Winter Routes||Summer Use||Winter Use|
|Notch Mountain Slab||15||0||High||None|
|High Falls Crag||4||10||Low||High|
|Pitchoff North Face||1||20+||None||High|
|Pitchoff Ridge Trail Domes||4||0||Low||None|
|Grand View Cliff||4||0||Low||None|
|Pitchoff Chimney Cliff||45||5+||High||High|
|Ice Age Wall||3||1||Low||Low|
When considering high-impact climbing areas with high-use approach paths, please consider Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, which is undeniably the highest use climbing area in the Sentinel region.
There are several rock climbing areas in the unit that are accessed via informal trails.
Trails to two three of these areas, Barkeater Cliffs, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, and Notch Mountain Slabs, will be officially adopted by the Department to allow for annual maintenance and any necessary improvements. The trail to Barkeater Cliffs is currently in good condition and requires
only minor upgrading at this time. The trail to Notch Mountain Slabs and Pitchoff Chimney Cliff will require more extensive upgrades.
Fixed piton use has all but disappeared in the Adirondacks, and those that are placed (for mostly winter use) are generally removed by the climbing party. We don’t see a need to even mention fixed pitons.
In climbing usage terms, we disagree that these are “low to moderate” usage. Four of the areas should be considered high usage: Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, Pitchoff Left/Right, Barkeater, and Pitchoff North.
The language specifically mentions rock climbers, but ice climbers are equally affected and should be included.
Rock and ice climbing have been a legitimate recreational uses on Adirondack park lands since the 1930s, and are recognized in the APSLMP as such under the definition of “Mountaineering”. Fixed anchors are an inseparable part of that experience. While we support the temporary moratorium on new fixed anchors, be aware that there has been no new fixed hardware added to the cliffs in the Sentinel region for many years now. The historic hardware that does exist, however, is heavily used and in dire need of replacement for safety. For this reason, we recommend that the DEC work rapidly with local climbers coalition to establish a permitting process for replacing aging, dangerous fixed anchors.
- Rock and Ice Climbing
Rock and ice climbing in the unit occur at several locations on Pitchoff Mountain and at
Wilmington Notch. Although climbing use levels have never been measured in this area,
use is believed to be low except at these four locations: Barkeater Cliff, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, Pitchoff Left/Right, and Pitchoff North.
they are believed to be low to moderate compared to other rock and ice climbing areas.
One exception is the Pitchoff Right Ice Climbing Wall. This is one of the most popular ice
climbing walls in the Adirondack Park due to its easy access from a major road.
Rock and ice climbing is not a wilderness dependent activity; it is a terrain dependent activity,
however significant rock climbing areas have been classified as wilderness. Some rock
climbers may seek a wilderness climbing experience, but for the majority the closeness
of a climbing route to a parking area may be a more important consideration. Therefore
most rock and ice climbing occurs along the periphery of the unit.
The use of fixed anchors as a method of protection for rock climbers has become an
issue in numerous Forest Preserve units, including the SRWA. Fixed anchors have been
installed on several climbing routes in the unit. This plan will support the
recommendations from the Dix Mountain and Giant Mountain Wilderness Area UMPs to
establish a temporary moratorium on the placement of new, or replacement of existing,
bolts or fixed pitons; inventory all known climbing walls in the unit for existence of fixed anchors; and
convene a focus group (including Department and APA staff, members ofthe climbing community,
environmental organizations and other interested parties) to
develop a park-wide policy on the management of fixed anchors on Forest Preserve
lands. The DEC will work with the local climbers coalition to develop a permitting system
for replacement of worn existing fixed anchors.
The placement of bolts, or other fixed anchors which involve drilling or defacement of the
rock is a violation of Department regulations (6 NYCRR 190.8(g) — “No person shall
deface, remove, destroy, or otherwise injure in any manner whatsoever any . . . rock,
fossil or mineral…”). The APSLMP does not discuss the appropriateness of fixed
Add Pitchoff Chimney Cliff to the list:
Access trails to the Barkeater Cliffs, Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, and Notch Mountain will be formalized and upgraded where necessary.
We would like clarification on what is meant by “protected species”. We are fully aware—and cooperate fully—with the state’s efforts to protect peregrine falcons. We are unaware of other protected species.
Address potential harm that rock climbing could cause to protected species.
Potential actions that could be taken could include providing interpretive
information or closing problem routes (seasonally or permanently). Any action
taken should be done in collaboration with the rock climbing community.
Add Pitchoff Chimney Cliff to the table of “Class III Primitive Trails”.
Be aware that the parking at the end of Mountain Lane is very important to ice climbers, as it provides parking and access the north side of Pitchoff, one of the most popular ice climbing venues in the park.
In addition, Mountain Lane and Alstead Hill Road provides access to the southern portion of the unit in North Elba and Keene respectively.
In the following paragraph, a parking area for the jackrabbit trail is proposed near the intersection of Mountain Lane and Route 73. We support the maintenance of the existing parking area (at the end of Mountain Lane), as this would help climbers and not affect skiers.
A trailhead for the Jackrabbit Trail is being proposed in the draft Saranac Lakes
Wild Forest UMP off of Mountain Lane near its intersection with Route 73 in North
Elba. Parking for this trailhead will be developed on the south side of the road on
lands within the Saranac Lake Wild Forest and on the north side of the road on
lands within the SRWA. Total parking capacity at this site will be 11 vehicles, with
room for six vehicles on the south side of the road (Saranac Lakes Wild Forest),
and room for five vehicles on the north side of the road (SRWA).
Pages 72, 106
Alternatives 1-5 show closing the east Pitchoff Mountain parking and relocating the parking and trailhead nearer to the lakes, to an existing lot. Climbers use this lot to access climbing on the north side of the road (in the Sentinel Wilderness region), and the south side of the road (not in the Sentinel Wilderness region). We are concerned that, in summer, the lot will fill to capacity and force overflow into the pullouts along the lake, which are now used by climbers for access to Pitchoff Chimney Cliff, a high-use climbing destination.
Pitchoff Mountain Trailhead (east)- This trailhead is located on a curve that limits
visibility for approaching traffic. This traffic is also traveling down a steep hill. The
parking area is on the opposite side of State Route 73 from the trail.
Alternative 3 and 5 close the west trail to Balanced Rock. This is a climbing destination, and closing this access makes this cliff very difficult to access.