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  1. #1
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Default "Massachusetts hiker, 26, found dead after Christmas Eve hike in White Mountains"

    My apologies if this has already been posted. I didn't see it. Tragic. Appears to be hypothermia.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/201...ng_Most_Viewed
    LT End-to-Ender 2017; AT from Lehigh Gap to Hudson River; NH 48
    "Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in." - Isaac Asimov

  2. #2

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    Looks like he died doing what he likes best.
    On Christmas day yet
    .
    RIP.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  3. #3
    Registered User Engine's Avatar
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    That's gotta be tough on the family...sad, and so easily preventable.
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” –Socrates

  4. #4

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    Its a sad case, here is some background for folks who may not be familiar with the area especially in winter.

    The hike he was doing was about as remote as a hiker can get in the White Mountain National Forest. He appears to have been doing an "out and back" to Bondcliff, Bond and West Bond (his turn around point). AT hikers may be familiar with Guyot Shelter, West Bond is short hike from Guyot Shelter and is popular spot to go after a day of hiking to watch the sunset. Its 22 miles round trip but technically not that difficult as much of the hike is via an old railroad bed with most of the elevation gained via a combination of a older railroad spur and then a series of logging paths cut into the side of Bondcliff. Between Bond and Bondcliff there is 3/4 of a mile exposed above treeline ridge with a westerly exposure with the trail on or near the top of the ridge. This stretch is featureless and in marginal weather its quite difficult to follow and stay on the trail. The topography in the area makes for very unpredictable wind direction. West Bond is upwind of the Bondcliff/Bond ridge and that means the wind direction can rapidly change minute to minute which can really slow things down. The trail runs for couple of tenths immediately along the cliffs that give Bondcliff its name.

    Hikers in the area work on the 4000 footer list. It easy to start "the 48" and those who complete the list get patch and certificate. As a hiker finishes the first list, they can graduate to the winter list which is the same list except the summits need to be in winter. This makes things far more challenging but is still quite popular. Due to the amount of weight required for winter camping, many folks now elect to do these as long dayhikes. The variations on the list continue going to 4 season list (all 48 in all four seasons of the year) and then the grid (every 48 summit every month of the year). In the past when there was less winter traffic hikers would do multiday backpacks or basecamping to grab the more remote summits in winter but with increased usage in the winter many folks (including myself) elect to do these as long dayhikes as the extra weight of winter camping gear can really slow a hiker down. Many folks do carry some emergency gear but the plan is hopefully pick the weather and conditions and be out after dark. This is trade off, bring too much gear like a winter tent and winter sleeping bag and that can slow a day hiker way down. In good winter conditions this can be an 8 to 12 hour hike and is quite spectacular, in bad conditions it can take far longer and it can take some hikers a few attempts to get these peaks.

    One of the "tricks" of getting the list completed is to try to get the long hikes in before the winter really moves in (as I write this the forecast is for 16 to 20" of snow in the next 36 hours) Folks will try to get in the longer more difficult hikes like this one before the snow gets deep and the weather gets real cold early in official winter. Last year was a particularly warm mild winter in NH so some folks got spoiled by a unusual winter and use that to plan the next winter. Unfortunately this winter is shaping up to be bit more normal, the snow pack in the mountains was not that deep but it was unconsolidated, usually a good crust develops and travel can be faster than in the summer as the underlying rocks are covered over. This was not in place so going was probably slower. The regional forecasts tends be dangerous for winter hikers as they underestimate the potential conditions in the whites at elevation. The observatory on Mt Washington has a specific set of higher summit forecasts but the extra 2000 feet of vertical between the 4 K summits and the summit of Mt Washington makes that forecast quite conservative. A weather front was forecast to come through clearing out the weather that evening, it would bring clear weather Christmas Eve night and into Christmas day but along with the clearing comes high winds and cold temps. This is a deadly combination.

    Most winter hikers are exerting themselves so they are hiking with minimal gear on, usually a polypro or merino baselayer with wind pants and a wind shell, hat and gloves. There is an attempt at moisture management but its easy to get damp. This works as long as the hiker is moving, but stop for any period of time and the hiker cools down rapidly. In windy conditions a hiker can go from warm to freezing in a couple of minutes, in this situation hypothermia can kick in. Unfortunately the first thing that is impacted by hypothermia is clear thinking quickly followed by loss of blood flow to the extremities along with uncontrollable shivers. Even if a solo hiker realizes they are in peril, in windy conditions the loss of dexterity and clear thinking can mean even it they have the gear that they cant get it on quick enough. The rescuers noted that the deceased had his wind shell on "backwards". I speculate they meant inside out and that meant that with a typical zipper the jacket could not be zipped. I personally have been caught in conditions where I have gone from warm to cold and shivering in less than 5 minutes. It was major challenge to even get my pack open as the standard click lock buckles need dexterity to open. Even when I get the pack open I have all my gear in individual ziplock bags and in windy conditions even picking the right bag and getting it out of the pack is challenge. Even opening the ziplock bag is a challenge, I have had to rip a ziplock bag open with my teeth in the past as getting the bag open requires dexterity. With a partner or partners, they can keep an eye on each other and help those who need to put on more gear but solo hikers don't have that option. Some folks claim that "group think" can lead groups to get in more trouble but that normally only happens to less experienced groups.

    I expect for many reading this, the big question is why do we do it given the potential risks? The reason for me and many winter hikers is that on a good day with the right conditions there is nothing that can beat it. On a clear winter day, visibilities frequently are in excess of 100 miles. I routinely can spot Mt Abraham and Saddleback to the east and the entire chain of the Green Mountains in VT to the west, these long views happen rarely in the summer. The snow covers the rocks and the views open up as the leaves are down. The undergrowth tends to get locked in with snow so the woods are lot more open. Once the snow pack is established the trails turn into "sidewalks" and frequently despite 4 to 6 feet of snowpack the trailbed will consolidate and we can "bareboot" with microspikes at a faster overall pace than summer. If the conditions are right the trails turn into a "bobsled chute" and on occasion the trip down the mountain can turn into a very fast event. No bugs is another big plus.

  5. #5
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    "Many folks do carry some emergency gear but the plan is hopefully pick the weather and conditions and be out after dark. "

    In the Whites, in late December, I'd stay away from any plan that involves the word "hopefully". The temps were not that brutal, but the wind and rain was. Like you said, by the time he got wet in the wind, it was too late to even put the jacket on correctly. And, a SPOT won't necessarily save you in the Whites, unless you've got some shelter involved. Here's a tragic tale of somebody who had all the experience and probably the correct gear, but when things go wrong, ****e happens exponentially....while a SPOT is nice and may save your life, if you treat it like I do( the same way I treat my avy beacon) you will be better prepared and less reliant upon it to give you a false sense of security. Oh, how do I treat it? As a body locator so I don't become bear bait in the Spring...just sayin...by the time you really need either, you are screwed.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/20...j7K/story.html


  6. #6
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    It reminds me of Kate Maristrova in some respects. Fairly experienced hiker who ran into conditions they were not prepared for, hiking solo in the White Mountains in Winter.

  7. #7

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    I just recently read the book "Not Without Peril", which recounts several stories of deaths in the Whites. Your post aligns with the book very well.

  8. #8

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    With very few exceptions, most tragedies in the Whites involve people who pressed on in conditions that dictated retreat.

    I've done a fair amount of winter stuff in the Whites and I've always felt that the most important thing to know is when it's time to go home.
    Whites Lion Head 03b.jpg
    A couple of years ago, ascending up through Lion Head with winds increasing to 80mph... got within 0.3 mi of Washington summit and turned around.

  9. #9
    Registered User SawnieRobertson's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=cmoulder;2114808]With very few exceptions, most tragedies in the Whites involve people who pressed on in conditions that dictated retreat.

    I've done a fair amount of winter stuff in the Whites and I've always felt that the most important thing to know is when it's time to go home.
    Whites Lion Head 03b.jpg

    Well said. . . anywhere, any condition. Of course, he did experience much beauty before the point when things began getting too dicey. Sometimes, as with you, CMOULDER, we will see even more beauty and accept more auspicious challenges by choosing to accept "when it is time to go home."
    You never know just what you can do until you realize you absolutely have to do it.
    --Salaun

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    It reminds me of Kate Maristrova in some respects. Fairly experienced hiker who ran into conditions they were not prepared for, hiking solo in the White Mountains in Winter.
    It's Kate Matrosova.

    This is yet another sad story in a long line of mishaps involving Dayhikers. Let me repeat: Dayhikers. Kate was a dayhiker and perished in terrible conditions. Remember David Decareaux and his two sons who died of hypothermia in the Ozarks several years ago? They too were dayhikers.

    My point? Dayhikers just don't hike with enough gear to get them thru bad conditions. Most refuse to carry a sleeping bag and a tent or a decent tarp with stakes and good rain gear and ample extra clothing. Why is this?? Why is this, especially in winter??????????????????????????????

  11. #11

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    I suspect the mistake that was made was waiting too long to put layers back on. I remember a day walking in a tshirt and being comfortable and all of the sudden I came around a corner and the wind just hit me. I continued walking for just a few more minutes before stopping and putting on every piece of clothing I had with me. It was too late. I kept walking, but I didn't feel warm again for HOURS. Now I'm not afraid to stop and change out layers every 5 or 10 minutes if necessary. To me the most dangerous combination is wind, water and cold.

  12. #12

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    I don't buy the broad brush indictment of winter dayhikers. There is a very large and growing number of winter hikers and the vast majority are dayhikers, many of the folks who have done the grid (12 x48 summits year round) are experienced day hikers. The Grid is a very recent occurrence the first recorded finisher was 1989 and I attribute it mostly due to the switch over to long winter dayhikes. Most use a far simpler solution, look at the weather forecast before they head out and pick their days. It took me three attempts to climb Mt Adams in the winter and I ended up doing it solo as a day hike by picking the right day. Prior to the popularity of winter day hikes, the Bonds would usually be done as an overnight which meant stringing together two good days in the winter. Folks did it, but just as many got in trouble with overnight gear as dayhikers do. A far bigger issue is the Press on Regardless mentality. It happens several times every winter where folks from outside the area have a trip planned in advance and head up here only to find that the forecast has degraded, rather then turn around they elect to press on hoping that the forecast was wrong. They frequently rationalize that if it gets worse they will turn around. On rare occasions its gets worse and turning around isn't an option.

    Although there are some comparisons between this hiker and Kate M, Kate M went out in far worse forecast conditions, its questionable if she would have been capable of carrying enough gear to survive and given the limited evidence, Kate M was probably not thinking clearly many hours earlier. The order of magnitude risks were far higher with Kate then this hiker.

    The S&R folks plan to go out in the worst conditions and do carry extra gear for survival, here is video of what they carry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qiHF-pTKmU.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    It's Kate Matrosova.

    This is yet another sad story in a long line of mishaps involving Dayhikers. Let me repeat: Dayhikers. Kate was a dayhiker and perished in terrible conditions. Remember David Decareaux and his two sons who died of hypothermia in the Ozarks several years ago? They too were dayhikers.

    My point? Dayhikers just don't hike with enough gear to get them thru bad conditions. Most refuse to carry a sleeping bag and a tent or a decent tarp with stakes and good rain gear and ample extra clothing. Why is this?? Why is this, especially in winter??????????????????????????????
    ooh ooh I know this one. Because the conventional wisdom (I use that term not only loosely but sarcastically) is that if it's heavy it isn't nessasary vs being dynamic and bringing the right tools for the task at hand. Looking at peak angers video of the search and rescue pack is pretty much a bare minimum but for a few specialty items.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I don't buy the broad brush indictment of winter dayhikers. There is a very large and growing number of winter hikers and the vast majority are dayhikers, many of the folks who have done the grid (12 x48 summits year round) are experienced day hikers. The Grid is a very recent occurrence the first recorded finisher was 1989 and I attribute it mostly due to the switch over to long winter dayhikes. Most use a far simpler solution, look at the weather forecast before they head out and pick their days. It took me three attempts to climb Mt Adams in the winter and I ended up doing it solo as a day hike by picking the right day. Prior to the popularity of winter day hikes, the Bonds would usually be done as an overnight which meant stringing together two good days in the winter. Folks did it, but just as many got in trouble with overnight gear as dayhikers do. A far bigger issue is the Press on Regardless mentality. It happens several times every winter where folks from outside the area have a trip planned in advance and head up here only to find that the forecast has degraded, rather then turn around they elect to press on hoping that the forecast was wrong. They frequently rationalize that if it gets worse they will turn around. On rare occasions its gets worse and turning around isn't an option.

    Although there are some comparisons between this hiker and Kate M, Kate M went out in far worse forecast conditions, its questionable if she would have been capable of carrying enough gear to survive and given the limited evidence, Kate M was probably not thinking clearly many hours earlier. The order of magnitude risks were far higher with Kate then this hiker.

    The S&R folks plan to go out in the worst conditions and do carry extra gear for survival, here is video of what they carry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qiHF-pTKmU.
    thanks for the video

  15. #15
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    55lbs!!!!! HOLY SMOKES!!!! That's dry!!! Fill up those Nalgene's and that thermos for a nice 62 pound pack. OMG! And, no tent. Just a bivvy sack. And no real climbing gear, other than crampons and an ice axe. No helmet. No harness. No ascenders. No belay gear. No space blankets. Very interesting. They know what they need, I suppose...

  16. #16
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    I have a few basic rules regarding peakbagging or any back-country hiking in winter:

    #1: only hike with a partner.

    #2: set a turn-around time and stick to it. If we didn't bag the summit, so be it.

    #3: carry some basic life-support gear, like headlamp, sleeping bag, spare hat, gloves, etc.

    #4: my wife knows which trail I'm on, expects a call from me as soon as we're off the trail and have signal

  17. #17

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    It should be pretty busy this weekend after this Nor'easter passes through. A big storm always brings them out. Already half a dozen cars at the trial head for Lowes path, the direct route to the RMC Gray Knob cabin, at least 4 headed up today as the storm started. With New Years Eve a Saturday, I imagine the cabin will be packed this weekend. I'm tempted to head up myself, but I'll probably wait until they all get the trail packed down and go up Sunday...
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I don't buy the broad brush indictment of winter dayhikers. There is a very large and growing number of winter hikers and the vast majority are dayhikers, many of the folks who have done the grid (12 x48 summits year round) are experienced day hikers. The Grid is a very recent occurrence the first recorded finisher was 1989...
    It was nice to see your wise words (here and response 4 below) PB, I get it, and I get why these tragic things happen because my wife and I and many of our friends do exactly this kind of stuff, and yeah, I had one very close call with hypothermia and yet, I still get out there and get on it and hang it out and sure, not many get it, witness most of these responses,as usual on these tragic events. But that's fine.

    Funny you mention "the grid", here I thought WE out here "invented" this concept for our 58 (52? 55?) Colorado 14ers. Just this morning, honest to doG, I found out it was you nut-bars in NH that came up with the concept! One guy in CO (Ken Nolan, a god) is about 85% complete with the 14er grid, no one else has come close. In fact, the 14ers have only been completed in winter (let alone three times in the winter!) by 8 hardy souls. I personally have a long, long way to go for my goal of the "seasonal grid", which I'm sure you know of. I have, at least, done all the 14ers (in fact, the high 100) twice. Big deal. Yawn.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    A far bigger issue is the Press on Regardless mentality.
    Logically the Press On Regardless mindset is much more of a Dayhiker's dilemma as, well, they must get out at all costs without incurring an overnighter. No dayhiker I know of wants to pull a winter overnighter no matter what's inside their daypack. So they press on regardless.

    A backpacker with winter gear on the other hand can Press On and Camp, there is no "regardless". "Regardless" means going out with insufficient gear no matter your planned hike.

    Plus, I'd like to see some facts in the Whites of Dayhiker rescues vs Backpacker rescues. You say both are equal---as in---just as many dayhikers have to be rescued (or bodies recovered) as backpackers. Any numbers to back this up?

    When things get squirrelly or unpredictable or dangerous or too cold or too windy backpackers have the option of stopping where they stand, digging out a tent platform, setting up camp and hunkering in for a week until conditions improve. Whereas a backpacker might have several boring days inside a tent, a dayhiker in extreme conditions is having a lifetime's epic event.

    Remember, the boys who climbed Denali in the winter of 1967 spent 5 or 6 weeks in conditions worse than the Whites and they had enough gear and experience to survive (except in the beginning when one of their members fell into a crevasse). You could say the group is what kept all of them alive, and yet individuals still had to carry the right gear and survive on an individual basis.

  20. #20

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    Wow. I never have dayhiked in the Whites without being prepared to spend a night in case I got in trouble.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

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