Climbing gym

Adirondacks Climbing Guide Service Will Not Open

A climber climbs the Empress Route on Chapel Pond Slab in 2018. A leading guiding service, Adirondack Rock and River, has decided to remain closed to guided climbs until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Photo by Phil Brown.

By Mike Lynch

A major guiding service in the Adirondacks does not plan to open this summer for rock climbing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adirondack Rock and River owner Ed Palen told the Explorer that after discussing the issue with his climbing guides, they decided they couldn’t get clients out without risking spreading the virus.

“In our opinion, you can’t practice social distancing in rock climbing,” said Palen, whose company is based in Keene.

Guides must share handles and many of their teaching methods require being in close proximity to clients.

“They decided they didn’t want to guide in those conditions,” he said.

Adirondack Rock and River guides include Matt Horner, who is considered one of the best ice climbers in the northeast; Jeremy Haas, co-author of the “Adirondack Rock” guide; and many other accomplished climbers. The guide service partners with The Mountaineer gear store in Keene Valley to host Mountainfest, an annual ice climbing festival in January.

Palen said he would consider hiring hiking guides this summer, but that’s only 5% of his guiding business. In the meantime, he said he would monitor the pandemic and reassess in the fall and winter when the time comes.

Rock and River will suffer a revenue cut by not using climbing guides, but 75% of its revenue comes from its two lodges, Palen said. These will continue to operate on a more limited basis and will not open until mid-June, although they are legally allowed to open now.

“These are the guides I feel sorry for,” Palen said.