Dr. Ketch & Summit Stewardship Program

Adirondack Archangels

“If you’re a veteran of the Adirondack Park, then you’ll enjoy reading about friends of yours. If you’re a newcomer to the Blue Line, then this is a handy guide to some of the people who make this place so special.”

—Bill McKibben

The protection of wilderness in New York State’s Adirondack Park is an ongoing effort. Much has been accomplished since the adoption in 1884 of Article VII, Section 7, of the state constitution, known as the “Forever Wild” clause, but each day brings new challenges. This collection of essays presents many of the prominent stakeholders—Adirondack archangels—whose passion and dedication continue to make a difference in the preservation of this unique resource.

This book honors the memory of “archangel emeritus” Dr. Edwin H. Ketchledge (1924–2010), who in 1990 led the creation of the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program (SSP). The SSP has since become one of the most acclaimed environmental programs in the Northeast, focused on educating hikers, protecting and monitoring the alpine summits, and training the next generation of environmental stewards.

Despite its stellar reputation, SSP remains underfunded. In 2014, the #507 Fund (www.507fund.org) was established to provide a perpetual source of income for the program. All proceeds from the sale of this volume support the SSP. All production costs of this first edition are being underwritten by donors, including Domtar Corporation.

“Thus we continue the work that Ketch started: preserving the last vestige of New York State’s alpine heritage.”

—Julia Goren, Adirondack Council, former Summit Steward Coordinator

Available at ADK and at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley & Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid

The Summit Stewardship Program
An Adirondack Success Story
(As published in Adirondac Magazine, Sept.-Oct 2012)

Several thousand years ago, glaciers began receding from the Adirondack peaks. As the climate warmed, rare alpine plants took root. For thousands of years they thrived on the highest summits, under the harshest weather conditions. Then, in just the last 175 years, hikers arrived, enjoyed the breathtaking landscape, and for the most part ignored the fragile vegetation they were stepping on. The 1960s and '70s, boom years for hiking and backpacking, brought so many uninformed climbers to the mountains that it was said they loved the summits to death.

But not everyone ignored the vegetation. An individual possessing both the perfect academic qualifications and a strong personal devotion to the preservation of the Adirondack tundra began to draw attention to the damage being done on the alpine summits. The late Professor Edwin Ketchledge, or "Ketch," as he was kindly called, saw the dire need to educate hikers about the fragility of the alpine vegetation on which they so carelessly walked and camped.” READ MORE

End of Season 2019 Summit Steward Report

With Columbus Day, another successful Summit Steward season drew to a close. This was the 30th year of the Summit Stewardship Program, and it saw yet another record in terms of visitor contacts. More and more visitors are coming to the Eastern High Peaks.

Monitoring Vegetation Changes in Historical Photos
over a 45+ Year Period in the Adirondack Alpine Zone

A contemporary image analysis procedure was used to analyze historical and contemporary images taken from designated photo monitoring points on alpine summits in the High Peaks Region of New York State. Oblique images were analyzed for comparative changes in various groundcover classes across time periods ranging from ten to over 45 years. Summit stewards will be doing another round of monitoring in 2020. READ MORE

A Voice for the Mountains

One Summit Steward shares her love for the mountains we call home, and asks for your help in protecting them.

When asked to explain my summer job it usually comes out something like this: “Well, I’m a summit steward, so I work on top of a mountain to protect plants”.

I then go into a passionate account about the importance of the delicate alpine vegetation which blankets the highest Adirondack summits, the beauty and charm of the tiny flowers that appear in spring, and the paradox of how something that survives hurricane force winds, pelting rain, and long sub-zero winters can be killed by a single human footstep. READ MORE

The Botany Steward: A Key Cog in the Summit Stewardship Program

Hikers that have visited the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks in the summer months are likely familiar with summit stewards. Constantly interacting with visitors on the region’s busiest summits, they are striking figures in an already dramatic landscape. Perhaps less known, but no less important, is the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program’s Dr. Norton Miller botany steward. Focusing primarily on alpine surveying, the botany steward spends most of their time traveling between 17 of the 21 alpine vegetation carrying summits in the Adirondacks to study plots of vegetation. READ MORE

Skylight Does Not Want Your Rocks

Why we must break the tradition of carrying rocks up this High Peak

Mount Skylight, the fourth highest peak in the Adirondacks, is known for the gigantic pile of rocks sitting at the summit. According to an old legend, carrying a rock up the mountain will keep it from raining on you while on the summit. Hence the tradition that has pursued for years; every hiker leaves a rock at the top. READ MORE

* More pictures of Dr. Edwin Ketchledge here with permission from his son, James Ketchledge.