To investigate the molecular changes needed for cells to maintain their telomeres by recombination, we monitored telomere appearance during serial culture of fission yeast cells lacking the telomerase recruitment factor Ccq1. Rad52 is loaded onto critically short telomeres shortly after germination despite continued telomere erosion, suggesting that recruitment of recombination factors is not sufficient to maintain telomeres in the absence of telomerase function. Instead, survivor formation coincides with the derepression of telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). Degradation of telomere-associated TERRA in this context drives a severe growth crisis, ultimately leading to a distinct type of linear survivor with altered cytological telomere characteristics and the eviction of the shelterin component Rap1 (but not the TRF1/TRF2 orthologue, Taz1) from the telomere. We demonstrate that deletion of Rap1 is protective, preventing the growth crisis that is otherwise triggered by degradation of telomere-engaged TERRA in survivors with linear chromosomes. Thus, modulating the stoichiometry of shelterin components appears to support recombination-dependent survivors to persist in the absence of telomere-engaged TERRA.