Family mourns climber who died at Thacher; Group continues push to legalize climbing at park

Posted at: 09/16/2013 1:23 AM
Updated at: 09/16/2013 1:36 AM
By: Steve Flamisch

VOORHEESVILLE -- As family and friends mourn the East Greenbush man who died -- apparently while illegally rock climbing -- at John Boyd Thacher State Park, a non-profit group pushed forward with its effort to legalize climbing there.

Ron Czajkowski, 44, fell approximately 120 feet to his death while attempting to scale a steep cliff of the Helderberg Escarpment, the Albany County Sheriff's Department said last week. His body was found Friday morning.

"My father was the most genuine, fun loving, goofy, and care free guy that was ever put on Earth," Czajkowski's daughter, Taylor, posted on Facebook. "He always put others first and could put a smile on anyone's face."

Czajkowski had begun rock climbing only a few weeks prior to his death, the sheriff's department said. He apparently failed to properly attach his anchor, causing the fatal fall.

The Thacher Climbing Coalition called Czajkowski's death a "terrible accident," but noted that he was breaking the law and -- by climbing alone -- breaking protocol.

"Generally, you do not do climbing alone," the group's vice president, Mike Whelan, told NewsChannel 13. "There's an established system, and it's two or more people in that system."

The state's new master plan for the park might allow climbing, Whelan said. The plan is still under review.

The Coalition is pushing the state to allow climbing on a few cliffs that do not have public trails beneath them, he said. Climbers would require a permit, and they would have to sign a waiver releasing the park from liability.

There would be permanent anchors in the limestone, Whelan said. Each one would be capable of supporting 4,000 pounds.

"The rock is very solid in certain sections and then (in) the top sections, it's not as solid," he said. "So by having established anchors on the better sections, we avoid people traveling through the more loose sections."

The Coalition extended its sympathy to Czajkowski's family. He leaves behind two sons -- Dylan, 11, and Cody, 19 -- and his daughter, Taylor, 18.

"As tragic as this is, he died doing something he loved and something he had always dreamed of doing," Taylor Czajkowski wrote on Facebook. "May God give my brothers and I strength to get through this."

Czajkowski’s family was too grief-stricken to be interviewed, deferring to the Facebook post.