Illegal Rock Climbing in East Rock

Veronica Maciel

In Connecticut, about ten minutes away from the University of New Haven campus, there is a place known as East Rock; in this area, there is an ordinance in place that forbids any climbing of it.  Two students from Yale, Sarah Maslin and Peter Kaufman, ignored that fact when they decided to scale the face of the rock Thursday October 13. Maslin unfortunately got stuck in an outcropping 100 feet from the base of the cliff. She did manage to dial 911 on her cell phone, and at 3:45 p.m. the firefighters arrived on the scene. One squad of the department was able to ascend up the mountain while another repelled downwards. Eventually, firefighter John Cretella was able to swing close enough to Maslin for her to grab onto him; she was off the mountain by 5:00 p.m.

“She was not far from falling. She was tired, and she was at the point (where) she was about to let go,” New Haven Fire Department Chief Michael Grant told the Independent. The Chief also spoke with the New Haven Register, saying, “You can see the risk that this involves, not only to the climbers themselves but to the firefighters. And they put it on the line for her. They did a hell of a job. I’ve seen a lot of rescues, and this is one of the best. It makes me proud to be the chief of this department.” In other words, firefighters put themselves at risk every day in their careers, but this cliff incident could have had a much worse ending if the firefighters hadn’t thought things through.

While rescuing the girl, Lieutenant Schwartz was in speaking distance of her when his footing gave way and he fell 65 feet down and injured his ankle. A second fire fighter was struck by a falling rock, and a third was left hanging from a rope for 45 minutes. “The students left the scene physically unscathed”, as the Yale Daily news says, but the three firefighters were brought to a local hospital to have their injuries assessed.  The Friday afterwards, Lieutenant Schwartz was still in the hospital because Thursday night he needed surgery for his injured ankle, which had been examined and revealed a compound fracture.

This incident is, as City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph said is, “another reminder why it is against the law and why people should not climb the face of East Rock.” He also said “the fire department did a terrific job responding to a dangerous situation.”  Since the incident could have been prevented, the students were charged with misdemeanors for reckless endangerment of firefighters and with violating a local ordinance forbidding the climbing of the rock. The two students will be in court on October 19 for these charges.