Bad weather leads to multiple hiker rescues on N.H. mountain trails
Rescue teams faced back-to-back rescues in the Mt. Washington State Park
By Paul Feely
The New Hampshire Union Leader
PURCHASE, N.H. — Conservation officers were busy Saturday rescuing four hikers — including two from Nashua — from trails on and around Mount Washington after steady rain and strong winds created winter-like wind chills in the region, officials said.
Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, staff at Mt. Washington State Park were notified by a group of hikers that two of their party had slowed down “significantly” and may be in need of assistance on Tuckerman Ravine Trail. At the time, steady rain was falling, blown by winds gusting to 58 mph, New Hampshire Fish and Game said in a news release, with the wind chill at 29 degrees and weather conditions “continuing to deteriorate.”
A state park staff member hiked down the trail and located the two hikers — identified as Phaneendra Uppalapati, 44, and Shirisha Mallala, 41, both of Nashua — approximately half a mile below the summit and just below the Lion Head Trail junction.
Both hikers were extremely “wet and cold,” officials said, and the staff member provided both with warm, dry clothing and attempted to keep them moving.
With their descent going “extremely slowly,” the rescuer requested additional assistance around 6:30 p.m., and conservation officers reached out to members of the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team (AVSAR) and responded to Mt. Washington.
A rescue team comprised of a conservation officer, AVSAR members and New Hampshire State Parks personnel descended from the summit to the hikers, and assisted with getting them up to the summit, where they were loaded into vehicles and driven back down the mountain, arriving at the bottom of the Mt. Washington Auto Road safely around 9 p.m.
The pair were evaluated by personnel from Gorham Ambulance. Mallala was transported by ambulance to Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin for further evaluation and treatment of cold weather injuries.
Prior to that rescue being completed, conservation officers were notified of two additional hiker emergency calls — one involving a possibly hypothermic hiker on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail (Mt. Washington) and another for a fallen hiker with a head injury on the Lost Pond Trail in Pinkham Notch.
Two conservation officers who were responding to Mt. Washington were diverted to Ammonoosuc Ravine, while rescuers who had just come off of the Tuckerman Ravine trail were sent to the Lost Pond trail incident.
Upon arrival at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, conservation officers met with hikers who found a young woman struggling to make it down a steep section of the trail below the Lake of the Clouds AMC Hut. One member of the hiking group remained with the woman while others hiked out to get assistance.
A conservation officer hiked up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail from the Base Station of the Cog Railway, and around 11 p.m. made contact with Alejandra Ivonne, 32, of Derwood, Maryland, and the good Samaritan hiker who had stayed with her.
Officials said Ivonne was hiking Mt. Washington for the first time and had separated from her hiking companions.
“While attempting to descend the mountain, she had been battered by the weather and became very wet and cold,” Fish and Game said in a release.
Ivonne was able to walk out with assistance, and arrived safely at the trailhead at approximately 11:30 p.m., and her hiking companions reunited with her just prior to reaching the trailhead, and helped her into a warm vehicle.
Once this rescue was complete, the two conservation officers responded back to Pinkham Notch to assist a rescue crew consisting of conservation officers, AVSAR personnel and Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) personnel that were carrying an injured hiker out of the Lost Pond Trail.
According to Fish and Game, a hiker identified as Robert Ash, 83, of Townshend, Maryland, slipped and fell while descending the Wildcat Ridge Trail and again on the Lost Pond Trail.
“After sustaining multiple injuries, Ash was unable to complete his hike without assistance,” officials said in a release.
Over the course of several hours, rescuers from around the region assisted in carrying Ash over a mile of rough trail to a trailhead along Route 16 in Pinkham Notch.
At approximately 1:15 a.m., officials said, Ash arrived roadside to a waiting Gorham Ambulance and was evaluated by ambulance staff. He was transported to Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin for further evaluation and treatment.
Prior to these rescues, Mt. Washington and the surrounding areas were experiencing weather “seasonally common to the region but unexpected by many outdoor enthusiasts,” Conservation Officer Matthew Holmes said in a statement.
“The area received over an inch and half of rain, driven by high winds and fall-like temperatures,” Holmes said. “These conditions certainly caught people off-guard, and resulted in the ensuing rash of calls. People venturing out into the backcountry, even in August, are reminded to pack for survival situations, thoroughly research weather and trail conditions, and be prepared with gear and knowledge to self-rescue when things get bad.”