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, ADK Education Director and 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 2014 Summit Steward Report

With Columbus Day, another successful Summit Steward season drew to a close. This was the 25th year of the Summit Steward 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. READ MORE

Those Piles of Rock

July 20th, a blustery, grey Sunday, found me just above tree line on Cascade, repairing a tumbledown cairn. As a summit steward, I do a variety of trail work, from packing rocks into loose soil to stabilize it against erosion, to lining the trail with stones to guide hiker’s footsteps. Cairn construction, however, is my favorite trail maintenance. It takes patience and skill, and the resulting stone towers, rising in silhouette against the sky, have a stark and unforgettable beauty. READ MORE

Oh baby, it’s cold outside!

If you’ve been up above treeline, you know that it can be an extreme environment in any season. Winds are fierce, temperatures are cold, clouds can render the visibility to nothing in a blink of an eye—and that’s just in the summer! Winter takes it to a whole new level of extreme. READ MORE

A Different Kind of Peak Bagger!

While the rest of us plan our June to October weekend activities to get the most enjoyment from short summers, several hikers volunteer as Summit Stewards and spend a number of days above tree line, weather be damned. During the 2013 season eleven individuals brought the right combination of enthusiasm and stamina to climb Algonquin, Cascade, Marcy and Wright back to back days, again and again! READ MORE

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