New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents statewide. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the backcountry.
“DEC Forest Rangers’ knowledge of first aid, land navigation and technical rescue techniques are often critical to the success of their missions,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman. “Search and rescue missions often require Rangers to function in remote wilderness areas from rugged mountainous peaks to white-water rivers, and through vast forest areas from spruce-fir thicket to open hardwoods.”
Recent missions carried out by DEC Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks include:
Town of North Elba – High Peaks Wilderness
Rock Climbing Rescue: On August 17, 2015 at 3:06 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting a 23-year-old male climber from Carmel, NY, hanging from a rope on Wallface Mountain Cliffs, on the diagonal climbing route, after falling 60 to 80 feet. A separate group climbing just above the fallen climber rappelled down and provided basic first aid.
Twelve Forest Rangers, two volunteer climbers and a helicopter from the State Police Aviation Unit stationed at the Lake Clear Airport responded to the incident. A Forest Ranger and one of the volunteer climbers were inserted via hoist, operated by another Forest Ranger from a State Police helicopter, hovering in the Indian Pass Canyon. The helicopter lowered the pair onto a precarious sloped accumulation of broken rocks (scree) at the base of the cliff. The Forest Ranger and the volunteer then climbed a 200 foot vertical cliff with a 5.5 difficulty rating on the Yosemite Decimal Scale (5.0-5.15) rating system to a small ledge where they located the injured climber. They assessed the injured climber’s medical condition and developed plans to get him off the cliff.
The helicopter then lowered another Forest Ranger and volunteer climber to the same scree slope with a litter. The injured climber’s climbing companions helped the four rescuers raise the litter to the crowded small ledge. While one Forest Ranger packaged the injured climber into the litter, one of the volunteer climbers built anchors with artificial protection. They rigged a technical rope system and the rescuers on the ledge attended the litter as it was lowered 200 feet to the scree slope.
Four additional Forest Rangers hiked 4.5 miles from Upper Works Trailhead, arriving as the litter reached the bottom of the cliff. They attended the litter with the injured climber down the scree slope to an open area. At 8:00 p.m. a Forest Ranger steadied the litter as it was hoisted up to the State Police helicopter. The Helicopter transported the injured climber to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake.
The Forest Rangers, volunteer climbers and the initial responding climbers hiked out to the Upper Works Trailhead and were transported back to their vehicles in Lake Placid.
Town of Keene – Giant Mountain Wilderness
Overdue Hikers: On August 20, 2015 at 9:44 a.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a report of two overdue hikers. A 21-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man, both from Los Angeles, CA, had left the previous day from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve to hike Giant Mountain. As neither had access to a vehicle, it was assumed the pair departed from the nearby Roaring Brook Trailhead. Two DEC Forest Rangers initially searched the other trailheads to Giant Mountain with no results. At 12:15 p.m., as additional Forest Rangers responded, the pair were located hiking along Route 73 between Chapel Pond and Ausable Road. They reported they had started late from the Mossy Cascade Trailhead. The female hiker had gotten stuck in the mud in a swampy area for a period of time. Later, the male hiker developed physical issues that slowed him down. With darkness approaching they decided to hike to the Giant Mountain Lean-to where they spent the night. At day break, they hiked up and over Giant Mountain, and down the Ridge Trail to the Giant Mountain Trailhead along Route 73. After checking them out, Rangers gave the pair a ride back to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The incident concluded at 12:45 p.m.
Town of North Elba – High Peaks Wilderness
Lost Paddler: On August 20, 2015 at 11:54 a.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from Franklin County 911 reporting a stranded paddler whose cell phone GPS coordinates indicated she was on Cold Brook near Owl Pond. The 25-year-old woman, from Saranac Lake, was headed to Lower Saranac Lake and got turned around after going through the locks on the Saranac River. After her canoe could go no further up Cold Brook she left it and began seeking a trail through the woods. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded by boat from the DEC Second Pond Boat Launch. They went to shore, followed the brook to her canoe and began tracking her. At 2:06 p.m. they obtained voice contact with her on the opposite side of Cold Brook from where she had left her canoe. They met up with her and escorted her back to her canoe. At 2:30 p.m. they escorted her back to the main channel in the Saranac River where she stated she could proceed on her own from there.
Town of North Elba – High Peaks Wilderness
Hikers in the Dark: On August 20, 2015 at 10:10 p.m., Essex County 911 transferred a phone call to DEC Central Dispatch. The caller, a 48-year-old woman, reported that she and her companion, a 37-year-old man, both from Rome, NY, were stranded hikers at Indian Falls on the VanHoevenburg Trail. She said their flashlights were dead and they were unable to see the trail. A DEC Forest Ranger was dispatched to Marcy Dam with a UTV while an Assistant Forest Ranger at Marcy Dam hiked up to Indian Falls. The Assistant Forest Ranger reached the pair at around 1:30 a.m. and provided them with lights. She escorted the pair of hikers back to Marcy Dam at a slow pace due to physical problems the woman experienced. They arrived at Marcy Dam at 3:30 a.m. and the Forest Ranger transported them to the Adirondack Loj Trailhead concluding the incident at 4:00 a.m.
Town of Schroon – Pharaoh Lake Wilderness
Injured Hiker: On August 21, 2015 at 12:27 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for a 52-year-old man from Middletown, NY, who had injured his lower leg while hiking down from the summit of Pharaoh Mountain. The hiker had attempted to continue down the mountain and further aggravated the injury. Nine DEC Forest Rangers and an Assistant Forest Ranger responded to the mountain. The first group met the injured hiker at 1:41 p.m. a short distance below the summit of Pharaoh Mountain. They stabilized his injury and carried him more than two miles to a waiting UTV. They transferred the hiker to the trailhead and then to the Schroon Lake Ambulance Squad, which took him to an area hospital for treatment. The incident concluded at 7:00 p.m.
Town of Keene – High Peaks Wilderness
Injured Hiker: On August 23, 2015 at 12:53 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting an injured hiker on the col between Blueberry and Porter Mountains. The 28-year-old man from Keene, NY, had fallen, injuring his lower leg on a sharp rock. The injured man patched up the injury but was unsure if he could continue on his own back to the trailhead. Two DEC Forest Rangers responded. The first Ranger reached the injured hiker at 2:27 p.m. The Ranger assessed the injury and provided additional medical attention. The second Forest Ranger arrived a short time later and joined the first in assisting the injured hiker back to Marcy Field at 5:30 p.m. The hiker declined further medical treatment.
Town of Arietta – West Canada Lakes Wilderness
Camper Stricken: On August 22, 2015 at 9:53 a.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call reporting an 18-year-old woman from New York, NY with a previous medical condition was very ill and in need of assistance. The woman was with a group from Hamilton College at the West Canada Creek Lake Lean-to, on the shores of Mud Lake, along the Northville-Placid Trail. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded to the area. Two of the Rangers drove UTVs to the lean-to while another Forest Ranger accompanied an Adirondack Life Flight Paramedic on a helicopter from the State Police Aviation Unit stationed at Lake Clear Airport. The Forest Ranger on the helicopter scouted for a suitable landing zone nearby. A spot was located 200 yards from the lean-to on the shoreline of the lake. The paramedic, with assistance from a Forest Ranger, evaluated the young woman and determined she was in medical distress. They escorted her to the helicopter, which flew her to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for treatment. The incident concluded at 12:56 p.m.
Town of Long Lake – High Peaks Wilderness
Camper Stricken: On August 22, 2015 at 10:16 a.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a call seeking assistance for a 40-year-old man from Ridgefield Park, NJ, with a medical emergency. The man was at Rodney Point Lean-to on the shores of Long Lake along the Northville-Placid Trail. A DEC Forest Ranger and a State Police Trooper traveled by boat to the lean-to. The man was provided basic treatment and then assisted to the boat. The Rangers transported him to the DEC Long Lake Boat Launch and then to a Long Lake Rescue Squad ambulance, which transported him to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for treatment. The incident concluded at 12:45 p.m.
Town of Indian Lake – Siamese Ponds Wilderness
Injured Hiker: On August 23, 2015 at 12:35 p.m., the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department contacted DEC Ray Brook Dispatch reporting a hiker with a possible lower leg injury at Chimney Mountain. Four DEC Forest Rangers responded with Hamilton County Sheriffs Deputies, NY State Police Troopers, Indian Lake Volunteer Fire Department members and Indian Lake Volunteer ambulance members. The 62-year-old woman from Syracuse, NY slipped and injured her leg while descending the Chimney Mountain Trail. Rescue crews transferred her to the Indian lake Volunteer Ambulance at 3:30 p.m., which transported her to the Glens Falls Hospital.
Town of Lake George – Lake George Wild Forest
Injured Hiker: On August 20, 2015 at 3:52 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for a hiker on Prospect Mountain with a lower leg injury. The 62-year-old man from Queensbury, NY, sustained the injury while hiking on the trail up the mountain. A Forest Ranger responded and located the injured hiker about 100 feet off the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, being assisted by other hikers. The Forest Ranger assisted him to the highway where an emergency medical technician from the Lake George Emergency Squad Ambulance examined him. The incident concluded at 5:04 p.m.
Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety and Adirondack Trail Information webpages for more information.