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.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This Past Winter's Tragedy On Franconia Ridge Relived By The Lone Survivor

For those of you who followed our winter adventure, you know the measures I went to to keep my little hiking partner safe. And by keeping Atticus safe, I also kept myself safe. There were certain days we just wouldn't hike, or at least not go above treeline. On February 10th, two men either ignored the well-reported forecast or were ignorant to it. The result? One of them died - frozen solid on top of Franconia Ridge near Little Haystack. It's a place we hiked over twice this winter, both times on warmer days with no wind. The hiker who survived lost various body parts and in this weekend's Nashua Telegraph he told his story. The full article can be accessed by clicking here. But I warn you, it's a horrific story. I'm including a snippet below:

About halfway between to Little Haystack Mountain, Fredrickson's eyes had closed up from frostbite. Osborne then took the lead, with Fredrickson's hand on his houlder. They stumbled along, falling a couple of times from the wind, blinding snow and exhaustion. Fredrickson started to fall behind by the time they had reached Little Haystack Mountain. "At one point, I looked back, and he was curled up in a fetal position on his right side. I walked back to him." Osborne told him, "Fred, you got to get up. You got to get up." He had lost his gloves again. His hands were indescribable, his fingers curled grotesquely." He kind of rolled over and said, 'Oh my God, they're going to take my hands.' I said, 'Fred, you've got to get up now. We're almost to tree line. Once we get down below tree line we'll warm up and everything will be OK.' " He just wouldn't move. He became unresponsive. Looking back, it was pretty clear that full hypothermia had set in for both of us." Hard as it was to leave his friend, Osborne knew he had to keep going." As I walked away, I had this conscious thought, 'I'm 36 years old, and this is how I die.' Strangely enough, I was at peace with myself." He made his peace with the people he knew. In his mind, he expressed his regrets for the mistakes he made in life, and for the mistakes he made on this hike." My last thought from there was looking back over my shoulder and seeing Fred and being sad about that." Osborne climbed onto the top of a ledge. "From there, I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital."

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