The longest journey begins with a single step.
Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
Rescues in the White Mountains can range from evacuations in a gurney following a sprained ankle to massive undertakings that cost thousands of dollars, and put the lives of not only the hikers but rescuers as well in danger. Here are some stories of rescue efforts from the the NH Fish and Game Department's archives.Lessons from the trail: In the fall of 2001, well-known Boston radio announcer Ted O'Brien was lost for three days in the White Mountains. AMC Outdoors spoke with Ted about the experience and what he learned.
Q. What was the worst part of the experience?
A. In addition to the pain and fear I put my family through, the fact that a lot of good people were put at risk. Light planes can crash — or helicopters, as we saw in a recent rescue effort in the West. Search and rescue people can fall, get hurt, or get ill. Even professionals are not immune. If anything had happened to anybody else as a consequence of my actions I'd feel a lot worse than I do.
Q. Have you been hiking since then?
A. Yes. Most recently part way up Mont Albert, in Quebec's Parc de Gaspesie which I understand is a part of the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail.
Q. What did you do differently?
A. I didn't go alone. And my pack was filled with the things on the list. [See the 10 essentials.]
Q. Any recommendations?
A. Number one: Never go hiking alone. And that applies to a two-hour walk on the Blue Hill. Never. Anywhere. Anybody can have an accident, fall down, get taken ill, even the strongest most experienced hiker. Then what? At a minimum you're stuck and maybe a whole lot worse. Also two brains are better than one (and in my case the other brain is almost certainly better!). In retrospect I believe that had I been with someone else, we might have decided to turn back at the five-mile or six-mile marks, when the trail first began to get sketchy. But because I was alone, I felt no responsibility for anyone else and figured I'd just keep going. Also the second person doubles your chances of getting out if you do lose the trail.
Number 2: Listen to the experts. They make those lists for a reason. As I learned on my second trip down that trail, you may need everything at some point. Don't take them just because they say to. Take them because they know what they're talking about. As [New Hampshire Fish and Game] Lieutenant Estes said in the NPR piece, "You've got to have the things you need so that if things go wrong, you can make a stand."
Q. Did you learn anything else?
A. I learned that nature is utterly indifferent to outcomes. And I learned that people, family and friends and even complete strangers, are not. And I am grateful to them all.
CONCORD, N.H. - Two conservation officers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Samuel Sprague and Brian Abrams, received Lifesaving Medals from the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department in recognition of the remarkable endurance and professionalism they demonstrated during the successful rescue of Michael Lynn on the Carrigain Notch Trail in Crawford Notch on February 13 and 14, 2003.
"This search was a true success thanks to the exemplary actions and professionalism of Officers Sprague and Abrams," said Major Jeffrey Gray. "These officers are real heroes. Without their extraordinary efforts, Mr. Lynn would not be alive today."
Lynn did not return from a planned hiking/snowshoeing/cross-country ski trip through the Pemigewasset Wilderness with his husky dog "Cayla." On February 12, Lynn had started out from the Nancy Pond Trail on Route 302, planning to complete a 15-mile loop. He lost his way on the trail around Norcross Pond. He did find his way back to the Carrigain Notch Trail, but eventually ran out of steam and couldn't go further. Slumped on his pack against a tree, he sat with his dog through the night and all the following day, exposed for more than 24 hours to bitterly cold temperatures and high winds.
On February 13, Fish and Game search and rescue teams headed out in search of the overdue hiker. One of the teams, Sprague and Abrams, set out from the Nancy Pond Trailhead. It was daylight when the teams began the search, but darkness fell and they still had not found the missing man. Sprague and Abrams pushed on through the darkness and cold. Communications were hampered because radio batteries were getting low and transmissions were limited because a fire had damaged the communications building atop Mount Washington. At 9:30 p.m., the search team lost all radio communication after Sprague fell into an area of deep snow. The team continued to battle their way through the snow, at times chest deep, at the same time coping with temperatures reaching 30 degrees below zero. The extreme temperatures affected the operation of their radio and GPS equipment, but the two did not turn back.
Sprague and Abrams valiantly kept up their search through the night. Eventually, they came upon the exhausted hiker. Suffering from hypothermia and severe frostbite to his feet, Lynn could not walk. The search team needed help to transport him, but the radio was still out. Sprague and Abrams did what they could to keep Lynn alive through the night. They built a fire and gave him warm drinks, food and extra clothing.
At 8 a.m. the following morning, a crackly radio transmission went through. The team would need an airlift out of their location eight miles into the backcountry. Later that morning, a National Guard helicopter swooped in to fly the hiker to Laconia Airport, where Lynn was put into an ambulance and taken to Lakes Region General Hospital. The helicopter then returned for the search team and Lynn's dog, culminating a successful search effort for N.H. Fish and Game.
"Sprague and Abrams braved deep snow, extreme cold and high winds, overcoming their own exhaustion to persist in a difficult search in the backcountry-an effort that saved Michael Lynn's life," said Gray. "The Fish and Game Department is very proud of these officers and the extraordinary dedication they bring to their work."
While Lynn's saga had a successful outcome, Gray cautioned that his experience is a grim reminder that hikers, snowshoers and skiers need to be extremely well prepared when venturing into the backcountry. Always remember these key safety guidelines:
• Know your limits.
• Check a weather forecast before heading out.
• Do not hike or ski alone. Never separate from your group.
• Let someone know your route and expected return time.
Lynn wisely left an itinerary of his planned route with his innkeepers. Had he not done so, he would most likely not have survived the ordeal, according to Gray. Click to see other ways to keep yourself safe in the mountains.
CONCORD, N.H. -- A search and rescue effort in the White Mountains is nearing its conclusion for a couple from Andover, Massachusetts. Russell Cox was evacuated by helicopter from Mt. Lafayette this morning at around 10:00; rescue personnel said he was able to walk to a waiting ambulance and is now being treated for hypothermia at a local hospital. His wife, Brenda passed away from advanced stages of hypothermia.
The search for Russell and Brenda Cox began Monday afternoon, March 22, when the hikers were reported overdue. A family member said that the couple set out for a day hike in the Whites on Sunday morning, with plans to return home that evening. Lt. Todd Bogardus of N.H. Fish and Game, who coordinated the effort, said that N.H. Army National Guard personnel flew a Blackhawk helicopter over the Franconia Ridge area on Monday, after the couple's car was found at the trailhead parking lot for the Falling Waters Trail off Franconia Notch State Parkway. Guard personnel saw no signs of the couple at that time. Search and rescue crews tried but were unable to get up to the ridge on foot because of severe weather conditions. The search was suspended around midnight Monday, and began again Tuesday morning, when search crews were shuttled to the Franconia Ridge Trail and into the Pemigewasset Wilderness by helicopter.
The two hikers were located by helicopter personnel at 9:53 this morning, on a rocky outcropping close to the summit of Mt. Lafayette. Mr. Cox was wearing a yellow jacket and actively signaling to search personnel. According to family members, the Coxes are experienced hikers, with winter hiking and camping experience, and they have hiked Mt. Lafayette several times in the past.
According to Lt. Bogardus, Russell Cox stated this morning that when he and his wife reached the Franconia Ridge Trail on Sunday afternoon, they could not see the cairns (trail markers) or follow the trail because of whiteout conditions. They built a snow cave, where they spent the night on Sunday. On Monday, they tried to move around, but were unable to make progress because of wind and weather; Lt. Bogardus said they "hunkered down" in a rocky cave.
Participating in the search and rescue are staff and volunteers from N.H. Fish and Game, the Mountain Rescue Service, the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team, the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team and New Hampshire Army National Guard.