With a dedicated crew of 4 professional stewards and 23 volunteers, summit stewards have spoken to 24,738 hikers on the mountain tops this year so far! Summit stewards can be found teaching hikers how to stay on the rocks and off alpine plants on Marcy, Algonquin, Wright and Cascade during the summer. Now that it is fall, you can see stewards on those peaks on the weekends and during the weekdays you can catch them doing trail work and research on any one of New York’s 21 alpine summits.

Alpine vegetation sticking up through a rock crack

Trail Work

This summer has been incredibly wet so the trails have taken a beating! When hikers walk off trail or go around mud puddles, erosion and vegetation damage occurs. Please do your part to help keep our trails looking great by hiking in the middle of the trail and walking straight through the mud.

Scree Wall (ft.) Brush (ft.)  Rock Pack (sq. ft.) Caor Rocks Removed  Cairn Repair
Marcy  510  738  101  44  3
Algonquin  260  221  111  31
Wright  100  138  49  14  2
Cascade  195  170  9  12
Colden  80
Saddleback  50  3
Gothics  80 40 12
 Boundary  50 55  3
Totals  1195  1492  276  105 

More trail work is scheduled for this fall on Algonquin, Colden, Cascade, Panther, Haystack, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge.


Summit stewards participated in Vermont’s Center for Ecostudies Mountain Birdwatch. Mountain Birdwatch focuses on monitoring high elevation birds in the spruce/fir and alpine zone. This project looks at 10 bird species with a focus on the endangered Bicknell’s Thrush, as well as red squirrels and conifer cones. Summit stewards went up the north and south trails of Algonquin, Porter/Cascade, and Saddleback while stopping at specific points to listen to bird calls and map their locations. To see a distribution map of the data collected from this survey on Bicknell’s Thrush, visit here.

The Photopoint Monitoring project has continued to be a focus this year. Photos that were taken in 2015 were juxtaposed over photos taken in the 1960’s. Some of the 59 photopoints had to be retaken this year, which has been difficult due to the lack of sunny days. The analysis will be completed this fall to see if the alpine plants have been able to continue to recover despite the increase in visitor usage. This year also marks the tenth year of our participation in the AMC’s Mountain Watch phenology program.

Summit Stewards setting up the camera to take a Photopoint Monitoring shot.

Summit Stewards setting up the camera to take a Photopoint Monitoring shot.

SUNY Oneonta Professor Sean Robinson has been redoing the transect work of Ed Ketchledge this year on Iroquois, Boundary, Algonquin, and Wright. Steward Tyra Olstad and I went up with Sean Robinson’s crew to help look at the dominate species at different intervals to see how alpine species are changing over time. This research is crucially important, not only does it span decades but it continues the legacy of the late Ed Ketchledge whose work in the alpine zone saved the summits. To learn more about Ed Ketchledge’s work, pick up a copy of Adirondack Archangels: Guardians of the High Peaks. All proceeds from the sale of this book support the Summit Steward Program.

Volunteer Program

We couldn’t do it without our dedicated group of volunteers! They covered 60 days on the summits and spoke with 4,805 hikers. Volunteers also have the highest number of contacts in a single day for this year: 593 on Cascade! The Volunteer Summit Steward Program continues to grow, with 5 new volunteers joining the program. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer summit steward, send an email to

Training new volunteers on Wright. L to R: Kayla, Jonathan, Jon, and Alison.


A cairn on the summit of a mountain

Photo credit: Tyra Olstad

A continuing goal has been to increase the amount of outreach that we do with groups before they arrive on the summits. This spring, emails and information packets were sent to camps, colleges, and organizations (64 in total, spanning 8 states and 2 provinces). Many were interested in alpine presentations and Leave No Trace Awareness Workshops. Presentations were done for Camp Echo Lake, Deerfoot Lodge, Camp Dudley, North Country Camps, Camp Gould Lake, Paul Smith’s College, Gordon College’s La Vida Program, SUNY Plattsburgh, UVM, Glens Falls- Saratoga Chapter, Algonquin Chapter, ADK’s Binghamton Chapter, ADK’s Winter Lecture Series, and the Malta Library. Training was conducted for the Hurricane Mountain Firetower Steward, Cadillac Summit Stewards, Poke-O-Moonshine Steward, the 46ers Trailhead Education Program, and the Green Mountain Club. More presentations are scheduled for this fall!

Educational signs on cairn tampering, winter and shoulder season preparedness, and “Do the Rock Walk” alpine signs have been designed for the trailhead of Cascade and the High Peaks Information Center. A big thank you goes to The Waterman Fund for providing the funding for this project.

We need your help! Please donate to help protect New York’s most fragile and unique ecosystem. The alpine plants thank you!