May 25, 2018
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Man falls 60 feet while free-climbing in Acadia

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
A caution sign stands at the top of Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park as a warning to hikers descending the steep Precipice Trail down the east face of the mountain.
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A Brunswick, Maine, man was flown by LifeFlight helicopter to a Bangor hospital Sunday after he fell Sunday morning while rock climbing near the steep Precipice Trail, according park officials.

The man, who is 22 years old, was free climbing without safety gear in the popular South Wall climbing area when he fell around 10:30 a.m., Ranger Richard Rechholtz said. The man fell about 60 feet, landing on granite rocks.

In keeping with the park’s policy about injured visitors, Rechholtz did not release the man’s name.

Rechholtz said the man was climbing by himself and was not using ropes or wearing a helmet when he fell. The injuries he received are severe enough that usually they would be considered life-threatening, Rechholtz said, but the man is expected to survive.

Rechholtz said the climber definitely took risks that rangers would not recommend.

“Don’t climb alone,” Rechholtz said. “Wear a helmet.”

Other climbers who were nearby called and reported the accident to rangers, despite the area being bad for radio and cellphone reception, the ranger said.

About 20 park staff and members with Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue strapped the man into a litter and, using ropes and passing the litter hand-to-hand, brought him down through the boulder field as the base of the climbing area to an ambulance waiting on Park Loop Road. The ambulance carried the climber to the Schooner Head parking area, where LifeFlight then transported him to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

South Wall is on the east face of Champlain Mountain, which is very steep and in some places has sheer drops. Precipice Trail, which has sections where hikers have to climb metal rungs to move up or down the steep rock face, and East Face Trail are two trails that skirt along narrow ledges high up the mountainside.

Signs erected in the park warn hikers to be cautious when hiking Precipice Trail because of the steep incline and potential for falling. The trail is so steep that the park classifies it as a non-technical climb (where rock-climbing equipment is not needed) as opposed to a hiking trail.

There have been several other accidents on the east side of Champlain Mountain in recent years, both on South Wall and along the trails. An ice climber was injured at South Wall this past February and at least two climbers fell there last year.

Two years ago, Shirley Ladd, a senior at the University of Maine, died after she fell 60 feet while hiking Precipice Trail. In January 1997, an Old Town man died when he apparently fell 30 to 35 feet while hiking on East Face Trail, according to Bangor Daily News archives.

On Saturday, rangers responded to two accidents in which visitors were injured and then taken to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor for treatment.

A woman from Alpharetta, Georgia, was injured around 11:30 a.m. Saturday when she crashed a rented moped while driving up Cadillac Mountain.

According to Ranger Chris Wiebusch, the 32-year-old woman drove her moped into a ditch when she lost control of it on a hairpin turn. She was wearing a helmet and either dislocated or broke her left knee in the accident, he said.

“I don’t think speed was a factor,” Wiebusch said.

He said he thinks it is more likely that she just was not familiar enough with the moped she was driving.

Around the same time of the moped accident, a man from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, fell while hiking down the west face of Cadillac Mountain to Bubble Pond, Wiebusch said. The 65-year-old man slid down a sheer rock slope near the bottom of the trail and hit his head, knocking himself unconscious for a short time, he said. He was carried to an ambulance and then taken to MDI Hospital to be checked for a possible concussion.


Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated the person injured Sunday had fallen while hiking on Precipice Trail.

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