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THREE SCOUTS FINALLY TELL TRUE TALE OF WALLFACE

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The Characters

On the balmy morning of Tuesday August 29th, 1933 three boys from Plattsburgh, NY
decided to go for a hike in the Adirondacks. They were Tyler Gray, 19 years old, Robert
Glenn, 17, and William Ladue, 16.

Tyler’s father was a Plattsburgh policeman. Tyler became a construction engineer


working for the state of New York, then retired to Cumberland Head and died a few years
ago.

Bob worked for and eventually managed the Pal Blade Company in Plattsburgh, retired
and ran for mayor and lost and suddenly departed life.

Bill was both a close friend and a distant relative (2nd cousin) of mine. We roomed
together in Albany while we attended Albany Medical and Albany Law, respectively. The
first two weeks in Albany we boarded with the Glenn family until Bob transferred to
Ohio State U. Bill practiced medicine and later died August 15, 2004 of kidney failure,
leaving me to tell their stories.

Setting the Stage

Transportation of the mountain climbing group that day was provided by my brother
Paul, 19 driving the Allen seven-passenger Franklin car with our brother Frank, 15; our
neighbor Harry Hitchcock; and Bill Ladue’s lid brother Bobby, 14.

They drove to Heart Lake, south of Lake Placid, then took the Indian Pass trail, which
begins at Mount Jo, then circles around the lake’s western shores. Indian Pass is the
wildest pass in the Adirondacks. Rock slides and boulders the size of buses (broken from
the side of Wallface) choke the narrow valley. The steep slopes of MacIntyre rise from
the east side of the pass. There is ice here until late in the summer. Southeast seven
miles is Wallface Mountain, 3,700 feet (1,138 meters) high, a hunk of Anorthrosite
(feldspar) rock whose southwest wall faces MacIntyre Mountain, the second highest of
the Adirondacks. Older than most mountains this granular plutonic igneous crystalline
rock predates even Precambrian geological history. Scraped of soil by glacier as recently
as 10,000 years ago, this was a challenge Tyler, Bob and Bill could not pass by.

Our sister, Carlene Allen Raper, recalls that Frank told her that the boys tried to persuade
him to join them in the ascent but he turned them down. Paul was later to remark, “Harry
Hitchcock , Frank, and I were on this hike but missed the excitement by keeping on the
trail.” So Paul, Frank and Harry disappeared on ahead continuing southward, while
Bobby Ladue lagged behind.

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Background

The state forest rangers, concentrated in the Adirondacks and Catskills, are charged with
protecting state land, fighting forest fires and rescuing people who get in trouble in the
wild.

A search and rescue expert of the U.S. Coast Guard has provided this guidance on
survival, called the “Rule of Three”;
Oxygen – 3 minutes Heat – 3 hours Sleep – 60 hours
Water – 3 days Food – 30 days
All are essential to life, and deprivation markedly hinders mental and physical
functioning.

This was before the days of pitons, climbing shoes, mountaineering ropes, protective
helmets, and water bottles. Drinking water was taken from a passing brook. Lunch was
a sandwich and an orange.

But let’s get on with the story, as told by Tyler sitting in a chair at the home of his father,
cool and calm, as he was interviewed by reporters on the night of Wednesday, August 30,
1933. His hands and arms had been bruised and lacerated by contact with the sharp
edges of Wallface when he was being pulled to safety:

Tyler’s Story

“We left the Adirondack Lodge about 7:30 am Tuesday morning with the intention of
climbing Wallface which is about 3,800 feet high. Accompanying us was Ladue’s brother
Robert, who was left near the bottom. (Daughter Lillian Gray Fleming says Tyler said
that Bobby wanted to climb, but the boys told him to go back down.) About 11 am when
we were about half way up the mountain, one of the boys stepped on a large boulder,
dislodging it. It bounded down, obliterating the trail behind us.

This did not cause us any worry then as we figured we could climb to the top. However,
when we were within 250 feet of the peak we reached a narrow ledge and found we could
go no further without help. Neither could we retrace our steps.

Finally we attracted Robert’s attention and by use of the semaphore code (?-your editor)
we managed to tell him of our predicament. He immediately went for help. After he had
been gone for two hours a cabin plane, piloted by Fred McLean of Lake Placid, flew over
us. He was near enough to hear us shout and we told him to get a rope. He warned us
not to change our position.

It was plenty hot on those rocks during the daytime but when night descended we had all
we could do to keep warm. We had matches but we had trouble finding wood. We didn’t
have enough fuel to last us through the night. As the long hours dragged by Glenn and I
became sleepy but we were afraid we would roll off the ledge if we slept. Finally we hit

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upon the plan of using our shoe laces and belts to tie us down and thus we managed to
sleep and hour or two. Ladue kept watch.

Early yesterday a party of troopers and rangers who had ascended the mountain top on
the north side lowered oranges and sandwiches to us in a knapsack. Attempts were made
to lower warm clothing as we had spent the night in the freezing wind in shirt-sleeves.
We had no water and grew more thirsty every minute. Three men with Alpine ropes
attempted to get to us from the bottom but failed.

We waited impatiently for ropes to be lowered to us. Finally a small one was dropped.
We flipped a coin to see who would go first and Ladue won. I drew second place and
Glenn drew third. Ladue had been raised about 6 inches when the rope broke and he fell
back to the ledge.

We waited some time for another rope and learned later that rescuers were having
difficulty in locating rope long enough and suitable for the work. About 4:30 o’clock
yesterday Lieutenant Lyle C. Churchill of Mobodo airport flew over the n\mountain top
with two coils of rope. He dropped the first coil which missed and landed down the
mountain, but the second coil fell into the hands of the troopers. This coil was 260 feet
long and strong enough for the purpose.

The rope was lowered to us shortly afterwards. Ladue tied it around his waist and was
pulled to safety. This process was repeated with myself and Glenn. After resting a few
minutes on the peak we descended to the Adirondack Lodge.”

Bill’s Story

When I told the story at Bob Ladue’s funeral Bell said he went up last because he was the
heaviest. At that occasion your editor observed: “But for Bob, Bill wouldn’t be here
today”.

They were traveling light and wearing shorts, white (probably faded tan) shirts and no
stockings.
“We got the idea when we were passing Wallface,” Ladue related later. “We knew no
one had ever climbed it and it looked so easy, we decided to try it. I was the first to go
up.” Upward and upward they toiled, slipping and sliding perilously on the smooth
stone. After they had gone fifty feet there was no turning back. At the ledge the canyon
echoed to their shouting as they asked young Ladue to go to the lodge for help. He said
later he was sure of the strength of the knot he had secured under his own armpits and
was unafraid as he was hauled in as his body was dangling over the darkening gorge.
(NY Times, August 31, 1933)

(More of this story is with the Clinton County Historical Association, 3 Cumberland Ave.
at the corner of Sailly Ave., Plattsburgh, NY – Tel. 561-0340

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Bob’s Story

Among the old and crumbling newspaper clippings in the Glenn collection is the
following one published at Lake Placid, NY, Friday September 1, 1933. It is marked in
Bob Glenn’s Handwriting: Truest Story

“Parents, friends and well-wishers of three boys who had been trapped on the ledge on
Wallface for 32 hours sighed heavily with relief as three tired but happy-faced youths
tramped forth from the trail at Adirondack Lodge club to be fed, bundled up and to be
taken to their homes in Plattsburgh.

Wednesday night William Ladue, Robert Glenn, and Tyler Gray, upon reaching their
homes received the more intimate ministrations of the mothers who had remained there,
the demonstrations differing from the slow wan smiles of the fathers who had previously
joined the rescue party. Beds were welcomed by the plucky trio who could only be
induced to leave them to reinforce themselves with food from which they had been
deprived while on their temporary rock prison.

The rescue was finally effected with rope which was dropped to the rescue party on the
top of the mountain by a plane piloted by Lieut. Lyle Churchill of Plattsburgh, the men
immediately setting about to make it fast about a tree some distance back of the ledge.
Following revolver shots aimed at the opposite side of the pass so that the boys would
receive the echo and know it was time for the long pull up the side of the sheer cliff, five
men tugged with heart and muscle alert to the job of pulling the boys to safety without
slip or error which might prove fatal. The rescue itself took but one half hour, the party
moving quickly and surely to bring up one boy after another to the top to avoid any
possibility of panic or hysteria on the part of the last youth left on the ledge.

Those who pulled the boys to safety were Paul Steers, Lake Placid Club; Robert Downs,
Saranac Lake; Sergeant John King, Trooper R.M. Ward, and Trooper Robert Lipton,
Troop B. state police.
First Attempt Almost a Disaster

Although the first rescuing parties set out Tuesday afternoon equipped with rope it was of
insufficient strength and length to be safe as was proved Wednesday morning when it
started to give way when one boy was raised from the ledge from 8 to 10 feet. Catching
against a rock and holding, the men were able to ease the boy back to his former position.

Corporal Harold Muller of the Port Henry Patrol was dispatched back to Adirondack
Lodge, running over the trail in one hour and 15 minutes. After a delayed quest for the
heavy rope he dropped it from Churchill’s plane to avoid further delay in trekking it back
to the top of the mountain as it was feared that darkness would again be upon them before
the youths were brought to safety.

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To Late for Rescue Tuesday

Darkness which descends early in the pass prevented any prolonged attempt to get the
boys down Tuesday night. They had been crouched on a jutting rock with a 45 degree
downward angle since 11 o’clock that morning. Robert Ladue, brother of William did
not attempt the climb and when he realized the predicament of the youthful “Alpiners” he
rushed back to the lodge for assistance, running up to Jed Rosman, pioneer guide and
caretaker of the lodge for 14 years, saying “Mister, would you help a fellow in trouble?”
Upon investigation plenty of trouble was found. C.F. Graham of Albany, himself an
experienced climber, organized the first relief party.

The second organized at Lake Placid Cub included George Reynolds, former Colgate
halfback, Robert Downs of Saranac Lake, club camp and trail director, and Paul Steers,
Harvard undergraduate.

The third was made up of six state troopers from three patrols. Harry Wade Hicks,
president of the Adirondack Lodge club, headquarters of mountain climbers, asked Fred
McLane to locate the boys and report their position.. McLane flew low into the pass;
shut off his engine and traveled close enough to the cliff to tell the boys help was on the
way. Robert Glenn, appreciating the stunt play and daring of the pilot, upon his return
said “That first pilot was a great guy, we felt better after he had cheered us up.”

McLane also circled the cliff to report the next morning when no word had come through
from the rescue party, reporting from the air to the people below at the ledge and to Mr.
Hicks that the boys were still safe on the ledge after their night of solitude.

Try To Ascend Cliff – Then Night Descends

Tuesday night several of the club party, Steers, Reynolds and Downs, attempted to scale
the cliff when the boys had ascended but were forced to abandon the attempt after a climb
of 75 feet. Agreeing to wait for the morning light before any further attempt to reach the
boys, the rescuing party camped at the foot of the cliff over night. Their fire proved a
source of envy to the stranded boys who had only intermittent straggling flames. They
attempted to keep warm in the freezing temperature of the pass by changing positions,
taking turns of being the middle man, warmed by the others.

Dr. Gedfrey Dewey and a number of volunteers carried food and water to the rescuing
party which had already received some by airplane. During the morning they lowered
sandwiches, water and oranges to the boys, who claim they never did get water.

Early the next morning and through the day the original rescuers were augmented by
more climbers who journeyed to the top by way of the back of the mountain, following
the bed of a creek, the trail unmarked. Their experiments and waits for rope lasted until
2:45 p.m., when they went into action.

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No one is known ever to have attempted to scale the cliff where the boys ascended and
their position was acknowledged by even the most phlegmatic as difficult and precarious.
The boys upon their return said that much of the scale rock had fallen after they reached
the ledge and destroyed footholds they had used getting to that position.

Help from Coast Guard and Others

While the boys were being dragged to safety by the original rescuing group including
troopers and mountain climbers, many further preparations were underway, providing
additional difficulties were experienced. Commander M. W. Rasmussen of the Buffalo
coast guard arrived by plane in the afternoon with special equipment including a breeches
bouy which it was hoped could be dropped to the boys. Surfman G. A. Darlington, who
accompanied him expected to be lowered to the ledge to aid the boys.

District Forest Ranger James Hopkins of Saranac Lake and William Winters of Port
Henry made the trip in with a coil of heavy rope but arrived after the boys were hoisted.

Postlude

Asked what they wished for with the greatest intensity, during their night of
imprisonment – bed and nourishment – one of them replied “Neither, I wanted level
ground”; another answered “Fire” and another “Food.” Glenn was tied to a scraggly bush
struggling for existence in the rocky crevice and Grey was tied to his belt to prevent their
rolling over the edge as they tried to relax. Ladue said he stayed awake and didn’t need
to be tied. Grey and Glenn were both Eagle scouts, their training standing in good stead
when it became necessary for the tying of (bowline) knots in the rope under their armpits,
their lives depending on their holding qualities, a poorly tied knot meaning a 400 foot
drop to the rocky crags below. Although they reported that they were not frightened as
they dangled and swung from the rope, they were white-faced as they stumbled to their
feet at the cliff top where in their reaction they clung wildly to the arms of troopers and
others for some minutes not wishing to let go of their rescuers until their spirits calmed.
They soon had themselves in hand and carried 35 pound packs down the 9 miles of
mountain trail to the lodge. Boylike they even expressed regret that they were not
allowed to carry the 250 pounds of rope with which they had been lifted. It was left
coiled on the mountain top because of the heavy loads of everyone in the party. They
protested, “Aw, we could use that in our motor boat.” Ladue said he had a date to climb
Whiteface Thursday (which your editor also joined in, but quit at the ranger’s cabin) and
had to keep it, but his father also had something to say. The other boys believe they have
had enough for a time although they are experienced climbers. Their climb of Wallface
was intended as the first of a two-day series of climbs. It was most fortunate for the
others that the fourth boy did not attempt their stunt and was able to run for help.
Although he was near exhaustion as he arrived at the lodge he made the journey back
with the first rescuing party making the trip over the trail totaling at least 18 miles as he
had traversed it early in the morning with his companions. He is 14 years of age.

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Dr. F.C. Graham, recounting the anxiety of the group spread-eagled at the bottom of the
cliff waiting for daylight, said that for the first time in his life he barked a white birch
tree. Although averse to the habit he said he felt that it was excusable as he used it to
make a megaphone to reassure the boys during the long hours of the night.”

(This Adirondack epic is humbly presented August 2004 without comment by your editor
Fuller Allen of Plattsburgh, NY, a former reporter for the Plattsburg Daily Republican
newspaper.)

SOURCES:
James Bailey, historian, of Plattsburgh, NY – locating and fiunishing copy of Aug. 31,
1933 Plattsburg Daily Republican newspaper.
David Glenn, historian, of Plattsburgh, NY – furnishing copy of Sept. 1, 1933 Lake
Placid newspaper from his numerous collection of clippings.
Arthur Allen, oceanographer, with the US Coast Guards Office of Search and Rescue, at
Groton, CT. – “The Rule of Three.”
Addie Shields, Clinton County Historian – help in locating historical material.
Blair and Webber, photographers, of Plattsburgh, NY – expertise in salvaging deteriorated
clippings and pictures.