Four trapped climbers rescued from Ithaca Falls ledge

A young woman “hanging onto a tree branch at Ithaca Falls” and three would-be rescuers had to be rescued from the rocky wall on the south edge of the Ithaca Falls Natural Area on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Ithaca Fire Department.

According to an IFD statement, Tompkins County’s 911 center took a call at about 4:30pm on Wednesday reporting “a female hanging onto a tree branch” at Ithaca Falls. The popular natural area, northeast of Downtown Ithaca, is closed while the Lake Street Bridge is being rebuilt.

Emergency personnel from IFD, along with Bangs Ambulance, Ithaca Police Department, and Cornell EMS, responded to the scene and “found four people clinging to the rock ledge, unable to climb out.”

All four individuals, counselors from the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts summer camp in the Catskills, were in town to hike area trails. “They had started from the top,” according to an IFD statement, and “left the safety of the observation area.” A female climber “became unable to climb forward or back due to the steep cliffs and slippery shale,” and three others “went to assist her and became trapped themselves.”

Firefighters assembled a rope system to rescue the trapped climbers, using safety lines and a harness to attach each victim to a rescuer. IFD personnel “were then able to negotiate the sharp terrain back up and out to safety,” according to Lt. Thomas T. Basher Jr. of Ithaca Fire Department. Basher says the four were all roughly of college age.

The Ithaca Police Department issued summonses to all four climbers, charging them with illegal rock climbing. No one was injured. IPD did not respond to requests for further details on the rescued individuals or the charges they face.

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