A 22-year-old Maine man fell about 60 feet while rock climbing Sunday morning in Acadia National Park and was airlifted to a Bangor hospital for treatment of apparently serious injuries.
Park Ranger Richard Rechholtz, who supervised the rescue operation, said the man was “free climbing” by himself on the South Wall of Champlain Mountain – near the Precipice Trail – when he slipped and landed on a boulder field around 10:30 a.m.
A team of rangers and members of the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue squad hiked into the area where the man landed and placed him on a litter.
He was put in an ambulance on the Park Loop Road and transported to Schooner Head Overlook, where a LifeFlight helicopter met him. He was then flown to Eastern Maine Medical Center for treatment of wrist and back injuries. The extent and severity of his injuries was not immediately known, but rangers said his injuries appeared to be serious.
Rechholtz said privacy laws prevented him from identifying the man. Rechholtz said he heard the climber was working this summer as a kayaking guide on Mount Desert Island. He said the victim was not wearing a helmet, and was not using ropes to secure his climb – so that he was climbing with his hands and feet only.
“He slipped and fell,” Rechholtz said. “You shouldn’t be climbing by yourself – not in an area like that – and you should always be wearing a helmet.”
Though the man was alone, Rechholtz said a group of climbers heard his cries and went to his aid. They called 911 around 10:30 a.m.
Rechholtz, a veteran park ranger, said Sunday’s accident was the first time he has encountered a person free-climbing alone in the park.
Steve Hudson, a member of the MDI Search and Rescue team, responded to Sunday’s accident along with seven other members of the squad.
“We’ve had about eight calls (to rescue injured hikers) this year and almost all of them have been standard carry-outs. It hasn’t been as busy as last year,” Hudson said.
Two years ago, a University of Maine student – Shirley Ladd, 22, of Barnstead, New Hampshire – died after falling on the Precipice Trail. Unlike the South Wall, where Sunday’s climbing victim fell, Ladd had been hiking on the Precipice Trail, which leads to the summit of Champlain Mountain.
It is considered the most challenging trail in the park because hikers must hang on to steel ladder rungs on some parts of the trail. Experts say the Precipice Tail is the most exposed hiking trail in the park, providing even more challenges than the Beehive Trail near Sand Beach.