Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Official Press Release From NH Fish & Game Re: Rescued Hikers

CONCORD, N.H. - Two hikers missing on Mt. Lafayette were found about 7:30 p.m. yesterday evening (February 11, 2008) by a 7-man rescue team of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers and members of Mountain Rescue Service. Laurence Fredrickson, age 55, of South Sutton, N.H was pronounced dead at the Littleton Hospital a short time after his arrival. James Osborne, age 36, of Manchester, N.H., was last reported to be in critical condition suffering from severe hypothermia and frostbite. Osborne was airlifted from Littleton Hospital to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.

The search team that found the hikers (one of six teams involved in the mission) had started up the Falling Waters Trail at 1:30 p.m. Searchers had to alternate breaking trail through deep snow; it took 6 hours of difficult hiking to reach the summit of Little Haystack Mountain. Weather conditions during the search effort consisted of sub-zero temperatures and strong winds.

The hikers were found near each other, close to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain (altitude 4,800 feet), about 200 feet north of the intersection of the Falling Waters and Franconia Ridge trails. Fredrickson was lying near the trail in an unresponsive condition with his pack still on his back. Osborne was found a short distance away, near some scrub trees, and was in a semi-comatose state.

According to New Hampshire Fish and Game Lieutenant Todd Bogardus, it appears that both hikers were equipped only for a day hike and did not have adequate winter gear for overnight or for the severe winter conditions encountered. They reportedly did not have snowshoes, which was a prerequisite for the snow conditions on most of the trails, especially below the treeline.
By the time the hikers had been found, the Army National Guard Blackhawk Helicopter had already returned to Concord and was in the process of being garaged in the hangar. They immediately reactivated to return to the search area. Despite high winds and dangerous nighttime conditions, they were able to land twice on the summit of Little Haystack Mountain to retrieve the victims and exhausted rescuers.

The helicopter first retrieved Osborne and one Fish and Game rescue team member at 8:50 p.m. A second trip was accomplished at 9:35 p.m., when Fredrickson was evacuated, along with the rest of the rescue team members at the summit.

A total of 24 experienced mountaineers from N.H. Fish and Game, Mountain Rescue Service and Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue were involved in this mission. Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team Members also responded to the scene to participate in the later stages of the rescue. Teams searched the following trail systems adjacent to Franconia Notch: Greenleaf Trail, Old Bridle Path, Falling Waters Trail, Liberty Springs Trail, Skookumchuck Trail and the Pemigewasset Wilderness Trail. Rescue teams were still making their way back out as late as 11:30 p.m. last night.

"This tragic situation, once again, underscores the importance of proper planning and the need for appropriate equipment when winter hiking," said Col. Jeffrey Gray, Chief of Law Enforcement at Fish and Game. "Individuals must carefully evaluate and acknowledge their physical limitations and level of experience. Winter hikers should not hesitate to turn back or postpone outings when severe weather is predicted or encountered. Even the best of clothing and equipment may be no match for the severe winter weather often encountered in New Hampshire's White Mountains!"

The two hikers had been reported missing on Monday morning (February 11, 2008) when they failed to show up for work at Concord Trailways. A vehicle registered to Fredrickson was located at the Falling waters trailhead in Franconia Notch and that, along with information from coworkers, led officials to believe that the itinerary was to ascend Mt. Haystack via the Falling Waters trail, traverse the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mt. Lafayette and then descend to the trailhead via the Old Bridle Path, a total distance of approximately 9 miles. Fredrickson had some winter hiking experience, and Osborne is described as a novice winter hiker.

No further information is available at this time.