Now in their seventh week, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) Professional Trail Crews have been hard at work this summer moving stone for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Kaaterskill Falls Safety Project.  It is anticipated that it will take fifteen weeks in total to complete the project but more time may be needed. Over 200 rock steps will eventually be installed to complete the staircase. 


To move the stones, the crew is using a highline system which is a series of pulleys that are placed high in spar trees. A wire rope is strung through the pulleys. The stones are between the spar trees. Each stone is wrapped with a chain and is attached to a block which rides on the wire rope. When the wire rope is tensioned on one end using a hand operated Griphoist, the stone is lifted off the ground and “flies” in the air along the wire rope. The crew is also moving stones on wooden rails that have been constructed. Essentially, a stone is place on the wooden track which is on a slope. Gravity takes hold, and the stone is belayed down the wooden track. 

One unanticipated problem that was encountered was where and how to store all of the stone at each stop along the three highlines that are needed to move the stones. Each highline is between 300-400 feet in length. Storing 60+ stones on uneven ground in the forest required some ingenuity.  Ultimately temporary wooden platforms were constructed to support stacks of 3-5 stones. Spacers had to be placed between each stone so the chain could be taken off and reapplied. Since the stones were cut from a quarry, the edges are extremely sharp and make a seamless seal so much so that it is nearly impossible to get a pry with the tip of a rock bar. 

One more 300 foot highline and a 100 foot long wooden track will be required to get stones to the start of the staircase. This final highline is being set up as I write this. The first rock should be in the ground by hopefully the end of next week.

You can help support trail projects like this one by making a donation to the Adirondack Mountain Club.

Video courtesy of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.