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Hike Safe: It’s YOUR responsibility

October 18, 2012

It’s getting darker earlier and the news is full of stories about ill prepared hikers being overcome by darkness.

The following story appeared in the Conway Daily Sun.

Search and rescue crews had another busy few days in the White Mountains this past weekend.

On Friday New Hampshire Fish and Game Department got a call around 8:30 p.m. that Mathew Morrill, 39, of Danvers, Mass., was lost in the dark on Mount Chocorua, according to a Fish and Game statement. “Morrill had hiked up the Champney Falls Trail to the summit. He accidentally descended the wrong side of the mountain, believing he was on the Liberty Trail, and was overcome by darkness.”

Conservation officers, assisted by Tamworth police, responded to search the Liberty Trail and several other trails in the area. Rescuers eventually found Morrill, healthy but without a light or overnight gear, on the Beeline Trail. Rescuers escorted Morrill out of the woods and to the trailhead, arriving at 1:10 a.m.

Then on Saturday Fish and Game officers were back in the woods after they received word that two hikers, Suzanne Young, 50, and Kenneth Kiel, 50, both of Hull, Mass., were lost on a trail in the Waterville Valley area.

The call came in as it got dark, around 6:45 p.m., according to the Fish and Game statement. Young and Kiel had hiked the Downes Brook Trail to the summit of Mount Passaconaway, arriving at the top at 6 p.m. after hiking for several hours. “They had made their way a short way down from the summit when they were overcome by darkness and called for help,” the statement said. “Searchers determined their coordinates from the 911 call, and Fish and Game conservation officers hiked in approximately 3.8 miles, reaching the pair about 10:40 p.m.”

It took until 1:46 a.m. to get the pair back to the trailhead. Neither hiker had overnight gear, lights, maps or other navigational equipment, according to the statement.
The two incidents have officials urging people to prepare for adverse conditions and early sunsets.

“With less available daylight, it’s more important than ever for hikers to keep track of the time they’ve been walking,” conservation officer Alex Lopashanski said. Hikers need to “make a conscious decision to turn back in time to return to the trailhead before dark if they are not equipped with lights and gear to be out overnight.”

Fish and Game also reported several other incidents over the weekend. On Friday a 62-year-old kayaker was located and assisted after becoming stranded on Moon Island in Squam Lake in Holderness. On Sunday an injured trail runner was rescued on the East Pond Trail. Volunteers from the Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team joined conservation officers on the carryout.

If you plan on heading out on the hiking trails, please check out the Hike Safe: It’s your responsibility website.  The website is a joint effort between the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish & Game Department to educate hikers on the inherent risks of hiking and help them become better prepared before beginning any hike.

About Jan Stearns

I've been living in and loving New Hampshire's White Mountains for most of my life. I moved to Waterville Valley in 1981 and quickly realized why it was dubbed a Yankee Shangri-la. Once you’ve experienced Waterville Valley, you’ll want to call it yours. The great team of Realtors at Waterville Valley Realty can help you find a Waterville Valley home that fits your lifestyle and budget.

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