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University Of Maine Student Dies From Fall At Precipice Trail In Acadia National Park


Rescuers worked to stabilize the woman before raising her 250 vertical feet to a Lifeflight helicopter. NPS photo.

A University of Maine student working her way up a section of the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park was killed when she slipped and fell about 60 feet.

The trail that climbs up the cliffsides of Champlain Mountain is one of the most demanding in the park, and possibly within the entire National Park System, because of the vertical sections hikers must negotiate by going hand-over-hand up iron rungs anchored in the rock face.

On Saturday morning about 11 a.m. Shirley Ladd, a 22-year-old student from New Hampshire, and a friend were climbing up the upper portion of the trail, which rises nearly 1,200 vertical feet, when she fell, according to park reports. She had just finished climbing up one section of rungs, and was about to begin another section when the accident occurred, the park reported.

"Rangers responded to the report of the accident along with Lifeflight of Maine, Bar Harbor FD, Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue, and Acadia Mountain Guides. The Lifeflight helicopter landed on the summit of Champlain Mountain, dropping off critical supplies and paramedics and flight nurses," Chief Ranger Stuart West reported. "Medical personnel from several agencies provided advanced life support while technical rescue teams placed anchors and hauling systems above the woman to facilitate a vertical raise (none of the three hoist-capable helicopters from northern New England were available at the time)."

Ms. Ladd was placed in a litter and "raised vertically approximately 250 feet to the summit of the mountain. She was then carried approximately a mile to the waiting Lifeflight helicopter and transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine," the chief ranger reported.

Park officials describe the Precipice Trail as "a non-technical climbing route, reportedly the steepest non-technical trail in the National Park Service. The trail follows rock ledges up the east face of Champlain Mountain and features iron-rung ladders and handrails to assist hikers."

The woman's death is believed to be the first associated with a fall on the Precipice Trail since 1985.


Very sad story, but not surprising for me. I climbed that trail about ten years ago and the experience is the only one in my life where I truly felt like I could die, easily, at any moment. As novice hikers/climbers, my wife and I just drove by the trailhead and thought "this looks like as a good a trail as any other. Let's do it." Half way in, I was trembling and terrified because I wasn't sure which was safer, continue going up or trying to go back down. We made it to the top, but not without a major scare when I lost my footing on a ledge and had to grab a shrub to prevent slipping over the edge.

If you are inexperienced or out of shape, avoid this trail at all costs. The view at the top is amazing, but there are far safer ways to get there than "The Precipice."

I wonder how it compares to Angel landings in Zion??

Sad story. My wife and I climbed this in June of 2012. Many veteren technical rock climbers would recognize the objective danger of the route. Though it does not require any aids for climbing itself, any fall could be serious, even fatal, as this story confirms. I am amazed, and glad, that the trail is open, but it might be wise for climbers to clip in and wear helmets.

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