Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Climbing Is Inherently Dangerous: Poke-O-Moonshine Cliff Claims Another Life


CHESTERFIELD, N.Y. (AP) - A man well-known in rock climbing circles was killed yesterday when he fell about 200-feet from a mountain in the eastern Adirondacks.

State police say Dennis Luther of Morrisonville was descending Poke-O-Moonshine Mountain in Essex County when the 54-year-old veteran climber fell while repelling on the mountain's north face. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Troopers say the fall was accidental.

The Adirondacks haven't had a ton of fatal climbing accidents, but certainly many non fatal accidents go unreported. If it doesn't require a rescue there really isn't any reason to contact anyone.

When I went flying down the Trap Dike in March 2006, I was one of 3-4 climbers who took several hundred foot falls on less than vertical technical climbs in the Adirondacks that winter. I was the only one that didn't require rescue, despite my fall being at least as far, if not further than the others.

I was lucky, and others have been luckier. Falling hundreds of vertical feet into deep snow or brush and walking away. Other people aren't so lucky, a 30ft whipper and they're dead. Someone I climbed with a single time, many years ago, had this happen to him a few years later in the Gunks. He fell 30ft, hitting his head and then hung inverted. Though the rescue was rapid, he died from his injuries.

The odd thing about most climbing fatalities is they aren't some NOOB, a slang term for newbie, or someone new at a sport, profession or activity. Heck, even doctors get the NOOB label, it's just classier: resident.

Ironically when a NOOB gets injured it's acceptable because it's expected. The problem with climbing is no one is allowed basic mistakes; gravity doesn't care if you've been climbing 6 months or 20 years.

In spite of the extreme sport perception of climbing, it's really not a dare devil sport. Most long time climbers are the most cautious people you'll ever meet. Climbing is about calculating risk and solving problems, and it's why many of the great climbers in the world are scientist and engineers.

In 2002, a Canadian from Toronto, decided to ice climb on Poko in known bad conditions during a warm spell, and an entire ice pillar came down as he was climbing it. I'd heard he made long drive and decided to give it a shot.
Even though that might sound like a terrible decision, this happens every day all over the world. People take a vacation somewhere and the conditions are terrible, but they spent their money and their limited time offm so they decide to climb anyway. The only time it looks like a bad decision is when you don't go home alive. We are all guilty of it at least once.

On October 8th, 2007 Dennis Luther fell 200ft on Poke-O-Moonshine. It's a steep cliff, highly visible from I-87, and I've only had the chance to climb there once myself. I climbed Neurosis, which is a moderate NEI 3+ ice climb close to where Dennis died. Dennis was an experienced climber with years spent on vertical rock faces.

Climbing is sort of the ultimate rubber necking, arm chair sport. Never has there been a sport where people on the ground think they have the answer to something going on hundreds of feet above them. Likewise, when an accident happens it's written about, and critiqued, and then hopefully learned from. Most of the time, everyone that wasn't involved shakes their head and says, "bummer, but that would never happen to me."

There is even a book that covers all the noted accidents in North America.
Accidents In North American Mountaineering

Thus far I don't think an official accident report has been released about the circumstances of Dennis Luther's accident, but state police said it was on a rappel.

Descent is always the most dangerous part of climbing. And rappelling is when you have the fewest links left in your protection system and it's when most avoidable fatal accidents occur.

There is no way to undo whats done, but hopefully people remember getting complacent means getting hurt.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Albany River Rats Home Opener

A few shots from my coverage of the Albany River Rats home opener versus the Norfolk Admirals. First time shooting hockey in a few years and the pro game is a bit faster than anything I've covered before (collegiate and intermural).

Overall lots of fun...

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Going Vertical In The St. Regis Canoe Area

The St. Regis Canoe Area (STRCA) is a pond hoppers paradise. Having 58 ponds in 18,000 wilderness acres, the area has short -but plentiful- portages.

Out of the boat for a weekend we headed for Paul Smith's in the Northern Adirondacks which is just outside the eastern boundary to the STRCA. The goal was either a sunrise or sunset summit and we opted to leave home at around 12pm and watch the sunset.

We had great weather, although it was a bit chilly. Low 40s on the summit with a consistent 10mph breeze.

St. Regis Mountain is on the northern border of the STRCA and offers a commanding view of the "wilderness of waterways" below, as well as a nearly 360* view of the northern Adirondacks.

The hike in is a rolling 3.5 mile walk that goes vertical for the last 1 mile gaining most of the nearly 1300ft in that abbreviated stretch.

Although St. Regis summit has a fire tower, it is neither open, climbable or barely standing at this point.

In the States master plan and Unit Management Plans (UMP) fire towers are a grey area. The state temporaliy grandfathered them into the wilderness areas until the aerial fire survalence and modern communications systems were up and running at 100%. It has been some time since 100% operational status has been reached, and a decade or more since the last fire tower was last staffed. However, the St Regis firetower has been left to be an eyesore and eventually fall to the ground.

My feelings are if the State/DEC/APA feels it needs to go then tear it down and fully remove it from the summit. If it wants to keep it then let a private group restore it as has been done on the other towers in the non wilderness areas.

However, the current state of purgatory this tower is in is a disgrace. Barely standing, and with no lower laddering to even allow people to ascend part way like most closed towers allow.

Personally, I don't believe these belong in wilderness areas. However, I also don't have a major problem with them if they are restored. Regardless, a decision on the status of this tower would be appreciated.

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Meet The Mutts...Head To The Ball Park And Greet The Mutts!!!

The Mets embarrassed themselves and their fans. They played sloppy and without any heart, they seemed like they expected the Marlins and the rest of the National League to roll over for them.

Yes, you are the NY Mets...SO WHAT!!! Historically, you're not the Yankees, you're not even the Redsox. You are only a bit better than the Astros who entered the league the same year as you.

Yet you swagger like you are the team to beat. You laughed when Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies said, "we are the team to beat in the NL East."

Hey Jimmy, congrats on the NL East title, congrats on putting your money where you mouth is, and congrats on the MVP you will be awarded for your monster season.

As far as 2007, you the NY Mutts, were in the lead for the entire season. You had a 7 game lead with 17 games to play, and you finished the season with 7 straight home games, all against teams with sub .500 records.

Why did you lose? Well you irritated every team you played with arrogance that you never even earned. Sadly, even the Yankees don't garner as much hatred from there opponents as you did this season.

You celebrated like you won something Saturday, and then Sunday the Marlins came to play. How'd you like that triple the Marlins pitcher legged out? Did you think he wasn't playing to win when he saw Lastings Milledge dogging it to the wall? Did you think when the Marlins took Dontrell Willis out in the 3rd because he was off his game they weren't trying to win?

Now, after playing one of the worst -perhaps without a doubt the worst- games I have ever seen in person, and with a less than sellout crowd on hand in your franchises most important ever regular season game, the season is over so stick a fork in it, it's done!!

Time for a vacation. Well an official vacation. After all, none of you actually showed up to play for the last month.

Your fans had no faith in you. For weeks they'd been calling sports talk radio exclaiming how you were losers, and sadly, this was when you were still in first place.

NY fans are tough, but you earned the boos Sunday. You actually got off easy. If you were my team I'd have booed from the 1st inning till you walked off the field. Getting beat is one thing, rolling over and playing dead is entirely another.

And as a Yankee fan, you denied me the greatest thrill a Yankee fan can enjoy, besides beating the Redsox. You, the NY Metropolitans, aka. the Mets or the Mutts, intentionally derailed the Subway Series which is the only time we Yankees fans get to win a meaningful game against you.

You squandered a chance to "take over the city", you filled this season with annoying slogans that mean nothing without W's, and you disappointed Mets and Yankees fans alike.

You ruined the possibility of a 4 team playoff for the NL East and wildcard spots which was another reason I was genuinely rooting for you.

Yes, I was at the game genuinely rooting for NY's second team -NY's baseball doormat- to win 1 game against a last place team. I didn't even leave in 6th inning like most of your fans because I held some hope you could beat the Marlins.

In the end, you wasted a perfectly fine Sunday afternoon for the 40,000 fans who showed up to watch playoff baseball while you played like it was a spring training game.

So from someone who really didn't care about the outcome, but would have liked to have seen a good baseball game, thanks for the memories!!! You Suck!!!

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