Rescue on Suicide Mountain in The Catskills

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rangers respond to injured hiker in snowy conditions

NY Rangers respond to an injured hiker on Sugarloaf

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Underscoring the difficulty of hiking Sugarloaf Mountain’s western approach in winter, an experienced hiker was debilitated by an ankle injury, kicking off a complex dozen-Ranger rescue mission.

Any mountain injury is serious. In winter conditions, even a minor injury is potentially fatal.

Adding to the seriousness of this incident was the location where it happened. The Devil’s Path is one of the most difficult trails in the northeast and, in winter, the west side of Sugarloaf Mountain is so thick with ice it’s known locally as “Suicide Mountain”. (The eastern approach to the summit is much safer.)

Accidents can happen to experienced, well-prepared hikers at any time of year.

Here’s a short follow-up report from the DEC Forest Rangers and the injured hiker.

Luckily, in this case, a trailhead close to the notch at the base of the summit offered an excellent staging area, and the first responders were able to get to the injured hiker relatively quickly. But notice below the 3:44 pm incident call time, and the 11:30pm hand-off time.

Here is the original DEC incident report…

Town of Hunter, Greene County, Wilderness Rescue

On Feb. 11 at 3:44 p.m., Greene County 911 contacted Forest Ranger Fox in regards to an injured hiker on the west side of Sugarloaf Mountain. Rangers Fox and Peterson headed to the Mink Hollow Road access. Ranger Peterson established communication with the 65-year-old from Connecticut while Ranger Fox started hiking up to the subject. Ranger Fox assessed the hiker’s ankle injury and determined additional Rangers were needed for the one-mile carry out in icy conditions. Ten Rangers responded and packaged the subject in hydrowrap and a rescue sled. Technical rope rigging was utilized to bring the subject down the difficult terrain. At 11:30 p.m., Hunter Ambulance transported the hiker to the hospital.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NYAdirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it’s for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.

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