This historic calendar celebrates Keene-based guides who worked in the valley for nearly 200 years. It is dedicated to the memory and spirit of Karen Stoltz--trailblazer in a once all-male profession--who died in April 2021 after a brief illness.
Like many guides of older times, Karen loved the outdoors, gloried in the opportunity to introduce city folks to the wonders of nature, and also was a major contributor to “town life” in Keene.
She was a key supporter of the Little Peaks Preschool, as well as the library, arts organizations, and more.
Other stories included here reveal guides who were town supervisors, church deacons, constables, and builders.
For more information on individual guides, click on picture or name of the guide.
Karen and RL Stolz
Ever since 1985, when they founded Alpine Adventures, Karen (1955- 2021) and R.L. Stolz (born 1955) have been using comprehensive instruction as part of introducing people to ice and rock climbing, back county skiing, and mountaineering.
Over the past 35 years, they guided more than 150 climbing and skiing adventures the world over. Another shared skill was photography and writing, which led to establishing Vertical Perspectives Photography, opening the Alpenhaus Gallery, and their first book in 2014, Classic Adirondack Climbs: Rock & Ice Slide Climbing Photographs from the East’s Largest Wilderness.
Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps (1816-1905) was the Adirondack guide who made guides famous.
He attracted disciples more than clients, bursting into national acclaim through Charles Dudley Warner’s tribute in The Atlantic.
“Old Mountain” Phelps became the consummate denizen of the wild, with the disheveled appearance and primitive education requisite in the philosopher sprung from nature. While other entrepreneurs mined the early tourist trade for the sport of hunting and fishing, and today’s pilgrims are drawn to test their grit against the mountain, Phelps was in the wilderness to hear the voices of God.
Four generations of the Heald/Hale family lived and worked in the High Peaks as it developed from a wild timberland to the summer community and visitors’ center it is today.
The Hale family arrived in Keene in the early 1800’s when Revolutionary War pensioner Asa Heald (1750-1822) moved his large family to Keene from Concord, MA. His son, David Heald (1802-1870), whose family later became known as Hale, was paid to build a sawmill and a dam on the Lower Ausable Lake. David’s son, LeGrand Hale (1855-1930), was a well-regarded guide, woodsman and hunter, who built the Warden’s Camp in 1905, a headquarters for guides. LeGrand and his son, Mason (1886-1956), were among the three best-known guide boat builders in the Keene area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
As a guide, Mel Trumbull was known as an excellent story teller. His camp fire stories ranged from Civil War naval battles, hunting, mountain climbing, to his most popular “exaggerated” dangerous animal stories. He was also an active member of the Keene Valley community, involved with the Neighborhood House, the Keene Valley Library, and the Keene Valley Congregational Church.
Mel Hathaway ( circa 1947 - mid 1920s) was one of a kind. After being evicted from the Ausable Lakes because he didn’t abide by hunting and fishing rules, Hathaway went over the Great Range and set up camp along Johns Brook, at about the age of 40. There he launched a new career as a wilderness host. He planted an apple orchard, hacked out a garden with a “bug hoe,” and entertained thousands of Marcy-bound hikers with his colorful stories and put some of them up overnight, charging 25 cents a bunk. He even gifted women hikers with poppies and nasturtiums.
Monroe Holt was a man of stature. He was a big man, eventually over 300 pounds according to some reports. He could carry a very large load leading his clients up over the Adirondack High Peaks and into remote fishing spots.
He was a large presence in town, too. He helped to build the original town school, served as justice of the peace for 16 years, town supervisor for four years, and assessor, and election inspector, and constable.
For over 30 years, Pete Lamb, with his father and brother, kept a camp on the Upper Ausable Lake, introducing city folk to the woods and waters of the Adirondacks. Pete became known for his expert camp cooking and was a favorite with family groups.
Charles (Charlie) Beede (circa 1947 - 1933) served as a guide between the 1870’s and 1920’s. He died April 28, 1933 in his home in Keene Valley. The nephew of Smith Beede, son-in-law of Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps, and brother of Verde and Ed Beede, Charlie Beede was considered to be one of the strongest guides of that era.
Brett Lawrence (1946 - 2016) was a man who lived his life on his terms, his office, the great outdoors, and his schedule were geared to the seasons.
Brett followed three prior generations of his family by becoming an Adirondack Guide and earned an enviably low Adirondack Guide badge number of 309. Brett drove passenger sleds at the Lake Placid bob-run, was an active member of the Keene Volunteer Fire Department and a life-long member of the Keene Valley Congregational Church.
Ed Palen (born 1956) grew up in New Jersey and spent many of his childhood summers in the Adirondacks, including several at Camp Pok-O-Moonshine.
That’s where he first fell in love with mountains and hiking, a lifelong passion. Palen is one of new breed of Keene guides, scouting out and helping clients challenge themselves on difficult vertical rock climbing routes rather than searching out the best fishing spots or deer hunting zones.
Ed Isham, born in 1899, was famous as a guide for two things: his uncanny ability to always find a deer, and his strength.
Jim Goodwin (1910 - 2011) came to Keene Valley with his family for the summer in 1919 at the age of nine. He either visited or lived in Keene Valley until his death in 2011 at the age of 101. He climbed Mt. Marcy that first summer, and by the age of 12 he was guiding others to the summit - ultimately making 195 ascents of Marcy.
Adirondack guiding is a centuries-old tradition, dating to the European invasions. The Europeans recruited native people as guides, to lead them through the mountains, and to the most fertile areas for finding game.
Then the European settlers took over. By the early 1800's, some Adirondack woodsmen were finding they could make a living guiding city folks around the mountains. Not a huge living, but some real money. Writers popularized the wilderness, rustic Adirondack hotels kept a stable of guides on hand, and the profession grew.
The Keene Valley Guides Association was formed in 1887, the same year as the Adirondack Mountain Reserve was born. Most guides worked on the Reserve in those days, often based at primitive camps on the Upper Ausable Lake.
Some guides used to commute on bicycles from the hamlet of Keene Valley to work at the Reserve, along a trail crafted by the Keene Valley Bicycle Assn.
The requirements for membership in the association were pretty strict: US citizenship, Adirondack residence for 15 years, and three years apprenticeship. That may be why so many men in the same family were guides.
As part of its greater oversight of the Forest Preserve, New York State began requiring guides to get licenses in 1924 and to abide by restrictions on hunting and fishing, cutting trees, and wilderness behavior.
Guiding has moved away from the hunting and fishing focus of early days. Guides today are more likely hired for rock and ice climbing expertise, as well as backwoods route finding.
But a love of the wilderness is still the prime factor. There are approximately 2,500 registered guides in New York State.