Death at Devil's Kitchen

Buttermilk Falls, Cortina, Devil's Kitchen, Haines Falls, Hawkeye, Huckleberry Point, Johnson's Point, Kaaterskill High Peak, Poet's Ledge, Round Top, Viola Falls, Wildcat Falls

Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby dave » Sun May 02, 2010 9:54 am

On Saturday, May 1, 2010 a group of hikers from singles hiking club called http://www.meetup.com/hikingmates/calendar/13147920/ had a hike into Devil's Kitchen in the Platte Clove Region. An inexperienced hiker named William J. Costello, 52, of Delmar, New York (suburb of Albany NY) fell 160 feet before hitting the ground, and then fell down another 40 feet down until coming to rest in some brush. It is reported that the accident occurred around 11:15 AM in the morning. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The region where he was hiking was extremely steep, where there is virtually no place for a footing. They should have been roped up for this hike.

Devi's Kitchen got it's name for a reason. The region is exceedingly difficult and dangerous. Devi's Kitchen region is known to run from the top of Platte Clove valley and falls down multiple water falls into West Saugerties. This area is known to have a lot of Timber Rattlesnakes and Northern Copperheads in it. The north side was close two decades earlier due to a large number of deaths of people falling off. Back in the late 1800's and early 1900's they used to keep wooden walkway (now gone) and steps down (now gone) the north side where the water runs down from the Kaaterskill Mountain Range. It was called the Grand Canyon. Some people still get down into the clove from this access point (Rt 16), but it is exceedingly dangerous and privately owned (now owned by the State). The south side has safety signs telling people of the impending dangers of proceeding towards the edge. The south side is known to have hollow ground where you can fall thru the ground into rock crevices. You can also pull back a conifer branch and find a drop of 100' plus feet. It is truly a dangerous area. On the west side is Plattekill Falls which is over 100' high, and is used by rock and ice climbers. The east side from West Saugerties runs thru some very difficult terrain littered with poisonous snakes. A number of years ago a man died in a placed called Hell's Hole, and it took EMS officials 3 days to remove his body.

It has also been alleged that the hiking club had a large group of 29 hikers, and it is unknown if they had a permit from the New York State DEC. It has also been alleged (unconfirmed - update: hiked several hundred feet to the left of there) that they hiked down thru the Grand Canyon region.

The hiking club had reported the hike and difficult and strenuous (before they removed the posting). Here is the posting: "Catskills day hike, Platte Clove Waterfalls, less than 5 miles, slow pace, strenuous terrain." It is reported that William Costello was inexperienced. It was also very hot in the region (in the 80's).

Stephen Tuomey, assistant chief of the Tannersville Fire Department. was the first official EMS member to get access to Wiliam Costello. Asst Chief Tuomey said that when he arrived there were already six hikers around the body.

The following agencies were involved in the recovery and investigation of the death of William Costello, NYS Police, NYS DEC Forest Rangers, Tannersville Fire Department, Haines Falls Fire Department, Palenville Fire Department, Centerville Cedar-Grove Fire Department, Woodstock fire department, and Greene County Corner Coroner Hassan Basagic. William Costello's Body was transported Saint Peters Hospital for an autopsy.

This would be the 4rd death on the Eastern Escarpment in the Catskill Mountains in the last 3 months. A fifth death at Kaaterskill Falls occurred just before New Years Day in 2009. This is an unusual number of deaths for this region.

Image of Devil's Kitchen from Huckleberry Point:
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Antique Grand Canyon Postcard (bridge is now gone):
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Satellite View:
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View of Bridal Veil Falls (near where he fell):
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Memorial to one of many deaths over the years in this region:
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View of Devil's Kitchen from further down Platte Clove Road:
Image

Terrain Map centered on Huckleberry Point (click on link): http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=42.12681,-74.06219&z=14,&t=R

Profile on Meetup.com: http://www.meetup.com/hikingmates/members/11536218/

Here is the listing on the Groups Web Site:

C3B - Catskills Dayhike - Platte Clove Waterfalls

Location Corning Preserve Boat Launch lot ; Colonie St; Albany, NY 12201

How to find us "Gold Ford Ranger pickup w/ canoe rack, other hikers"

Estimated attendance 29 people attended.

Who organized? Dave and Warren

Catskills Dayhike - Platte Clove Waterfalls

Rated - C3B, less than 5 miles, slow pace, strenuous terrain

Meetup time - Saturday, May 1, 2010 - 9 AM, will be back to the parking area in late afternoon.
Meetup Location - Corning Preserve Boat Launch lot
Colonie Street
Albany, NY 12201
[Attendees from south of Albany can be given directions to a meeting place in Catskill upon request. We will make quick stops at 2 other places on the way to avoid losing any participants.]

We will visit Platte Clove (or Plattekill Clove) in the eastern Catskills, one of the wildest places in the Hudson Valley, with truly spectacular scenery, where the Plattekill drops 1,500 feet in less than 2 miles down a steep-sided ravine. It is one of the most rugged areas in the eastern United States and was a favorite of the Hudson River School of artists. People who live or spend time in the Catskills know that "clove" means a steep, deep valley, or notch in the mountains. We will visit a number of waterfalls, in particular 80 foot high Plattekill Falls, and 100 foot high Bridal Veil Falls, and Hell Hole, described by author Russell Dunn as “an awesome gulf with precipitous walls and boulders of monstrous size.” Looking down the clove one can see the Hudson River and beyond.

We will proceed down the Thruway to Catskill and meet again on Route 9W, then stop again briefly on Route 23A in Haines Falls. From there a series of back roads lead to our destination. Word processed driving directions will be provided to all attendees. NOTE: The driving route we will follow does not take one along the narrow, steep, sometimes dangerous road up the Clove, but we will access the place from Route 23A instead. For more information on this area, check out these web sites:
http://en.wikipedia.o...
http://nymag.com/trav...
http://catskillmounta...
This will involve a total of less than 2 miles of hiking (a little more if we follow some of Overlook Trail), but trails are steep and rain or very wet ground cancels the hike. Hiking boots or other footwear with good tread are required. Hikers should bring beverages, snacks & lunch. This hike is not recommended for anyone with fear of heights but is a great place for photography.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the challenging conditions this is not a good hike for young children, anyone unsure on their feet or fearful of heights. I also have limited the attendance accordingly.

Any questions, please e-mail Dave or Warren or call Dave at 2229713.
Also, I will have my cell phone with me the day of the hike. Dave

Meetup.com site is owned by a nationwide firm. The Capital Region section is organized by Jason Hosier. Assistant organizers (Dave and Warren) sponsored this hike .

UPDATE #1: - There is some credible evidence that the organizers and leaders didn't get a permit for the large group. It is believed that the entire group was between 29-and-35 people. It also appears that the two leaders might have attempted to mis-register the hike and make it appear that they were a smaller group. We should have an answer back from the DEC tomorrow.

According to some witnesses nearby, William Costello fell a couple hundred feet to the left of the Grand Canyon. This the section that was closed about 20 years ago because of so many deaths. In this section, you descend down at an incline of 25 degrees thru a conifer forest. The pine needles are slippery. People would slip, and roll off the cliff at the bottom of the incline. To the left is a trail that will take you down to the bottom. It is steep and dangerous. It is reported that this is where he fell.

A background check of Meetup, Inc has reveled that they are a New York Corporation and appear to have sufficient money to handle a lawsuit. The company has headquarters in Manhattan. There are still a lot of variables, so it is difficult to determine what will happen in the future.

It is believed that he might have just moved from Ocean City NJ to an apartment on Kenwood Ave in Delmar NY. (Correction: Bill has lived in the Capital region of New York State all his life. He also have four children in the area).

UPDATE #2 (May 3): - It is the NYS DEC's position that the group did not need a permit, and no further action will be done. They did park at the KHP parking lot the day of the hike. The DEC estimated that he fell approximately 150'. This estimate coincides with previous estimates of 160' before hitting the ground.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby mike » Sun May 02, 2010 10:11 pm

Sad situation. With a group this large, I am not surprised by the outcome. This is one dangerous place to hike. You really need to rope up for this hike. And, you have to deal with Timber Rattlesnakes and Copperheads. I do remember about 20-25 years ago, they had 3 deaths on the ledges within weeks on the left side of the Grand Canyon. After that, they closed the area. Everyone stopped going there. It was sort of like Kaaterskill Falls. Everyone went there. Lots of deaths.

Tonight I stopped by and talked with some of the elders of the Bruderhof. Their comment was that it was too dangerous of a place to hike. Couldn't agree more. I did hike down to the place where he fell. There are still slippery needles down to the ledges. The memorial placed near the top should have been a "red flag" for the dangers of this hike.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby mtnclimber » Mon May 03, 2010 2:30 pm

I have heard of this place, and even looked over the bridge. But, I had no idea that it was so dangerous. Seems like a very large group for such a dangerous hike.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby bikenhike » Mon May 03, 2010 10:44 pm

Can you access it from the Indian Head side? Seems like there should be a reasonable place to get there.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby mike » Tue May 04, 2010 9:48 am

Can you access it from the Indian Head side? Seems like there should be a reasonable place to get there.


Yes, you can access it from this side. But, it does have it's pitfalls too. If you take the old Overlook Carriage Road from Rt 16 (Platte Clove Wilderness Preserve). If you cut across too early, you will hit Safety Zone signs. This is a bad place to hike. Lots of dangerous issues here. Some not very obvious at all. Continue up the trail past the trail to Indian Head Mountain (Devil's Path). When you get to the Lean-To, follow the stream down to the creek. This will put you below Plattekill Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Hell's Hole. Beware of Timber Rattlesnakes in this region. Then you have to climb up to view the best parts. Still very dangerous. There is not a good way to get into the region. A lot of ice climbers do climb both falls. That is probably the best way. You can get thru the region without ropes and climbing gear, but there is significant danger involved. Years ago, when the area was more popular, there were a lot of deaths.

This link will get you to the Lean-To: http://www.catskillmountaineer.com/IH-plattekill.html
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby Big-C » Wed May 12, 2010 7:44 pm

That is a tragic event, and I wish they would at least rope the area off.
I've lived here for several years and the conditions and hardscape changes from year to year.
Places you hike are not the same after a rough winter.

One thing I found a little strange. I've hiked the Clove many times, and have never seen any snakes other than blacks. I know there are copperheads not far away near West Saugerties/ Blue Mountain. I have seen those hiking down from Huckleberry Point to Manorville.
Rattlers I have never ever encountered, but I have heard they can be found on Overlook, altough I have never seen any.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby bikenhike » Fri May 14, 2010 2:24 pm

A couple of other hikers have told me that they have seen rattlers near the creek from west saugerties up to Devil's Kitchen. They can move a couple miles from the den, so maybe they are only seen rarely in the region. I know that they go in when it is cloudy, and come out when it is sunny. They are also up in the quarry by the entrance of trail to Plattekill Mountain. Not the quarry high up on the mtn, or down further (with chairs). Maybe they are coming down from there.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby dave » Fri May 14, 2010 8:44 pm

One very experienced hiker I know told me about Timber Rattlesnakes by the creek from West Saugerties up to Devil's Kitchen. He has encountered many rattlers, so he is not making a misidentification. It is very possible that the den is quite a distance from the creek, so they visit very rarely. They usually travel up to a mile from the Winter den, but can travel up to 4.5 miles. But, I have been told by at least a half-dozen people that they are there. I have also heard that they are up near where some of the crashed cars are off of the road.

I have hiked to Echo Lake many times and have never seen a Rattlesnake, but I know that they are there. They do blend in so well. The Timber Rattlesnakes on the summit of Overlook mtn are the pregnant females. They are much easier to find. The males and other snakes are in the woods, and much harder to find. There are about 6-7 dens on Overlook-to-Echo Lake-Quarry.

I doubt that they are up in Devil's Kitchen or up at Huckleberry Point. A study was published recently stating that Timber Rattlesnakes don't like to cross roads.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby mike » Fri May 14, 2010 9:00 pm

There is a herpetologist in West Saugerties. Maybe we need to track him down and ask him.
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Re: Death at Devil's Kitchen

New postby mike » Fri May 14, 2010 9:55 pm

Okay, I looked into the issue of Rattlesnakes from West Saugerties to Devil's Kitchen

Image

This map comes from the DEC. It shows rattlesnakes from the valley from West Saugerties to Woodstock. This area moves up to Overlook Mountain, and moves along the old Overlook Carriage Road and down to Plattekill Creek. It also moves down to Echo Lake. Most people report that seeing a rattlesnake in this region is rare, with the exception of the summit of Overlook Mtn and Ministers Face (on Overlook Mtn).

The Herp guy in West Saugerties is Paul Perri.

Here is some previous correspondence from an experienced hiker:

...hiking up from West Saugerties at the bottom of the clove to Devil's Kitchen, I saw a rattlesnake at the pool at the base of the second waterfall...

My guess is that Plattekill Creek is on the edge of the boundary of the population area. They probably go there, but the visit is probably very rare. They would be where ever you find good populations of the White-footed mouse.
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