Concord, NH – Two hikers caught by darkness after taking a wrong turn on Mount Chocorua in Albany, N.H called 911 for help and were grateful to be escorted to safety by rescuers a few hours later.
Joshua Hayes, age 26, and Emily Smith, age 27, both of Shapleigh, Maine, drove to New Hampshire yesterday to hike Mount Chocorua, the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. They started out about 10:00 a.m. on the Piper Trail and reached the mountaintop about 2:30 p.m. At that point they realized that they didn’t have a lot of time remaining before dark, so they headed back down the mountain. Along the way, they missed a turn and ended up on another path, the Brook Trail, which, unbeknownst to them since they had no map, took them in the direction of the Liberty Trailhead — not the trailhead where their vehicle was parked.
Hayes and Smith never got to the Liberty Trailhead on their own, though. By 4:50 p.m., it had gotten quite dark, and they had no lights with them. It was cold, too. Realizing they needed help, they used a cell phone to call 911. Luckily for them, there was cell phone coverage in the area and a 911 operator was able to get their GPS coordinate from the use of their cell phone. N.H. Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers were alerted and began a rescue effort. Fish and Game Sgt. Brian Abrams contacted the lost pair by cell phone, telling them to stay where they were and to try to build a fire to keep warm for a few hours until rescuers could reach them. Hayes did get a small campfire going.
Abrams and Fish and Game Conservation Officers Alex Lopashanski and Brad Morse reached the appreciative young couple about a half-mile from the Liberty Trailhead. The officers hiked Hayes and Smith down to the trailhead, arriving about 7:10 p.m., and provided a ride back to their vehicle at the Piper Trailhead.
“They were lucky,” said Abrams. “They didn’t have a map and compass, a GPS unit or a headlamp. Making a fire was a good choice, though, and the fire could have helped them survive the night if they needed to.”
Abrams advised that hikers have to remember that it gets dark very early now, and the temperature drops very fast when the sun goes down. Hikers should plan extra time and bring warm clothing in case something goes wrong. Be sure to have the essentials with you, including headlamps, fire-making equipment, extra batteries and a map.
The biggest thing, says Abrams, is to plan a little extra time and let someone back home know your itinerary. And don’t count on using your cell phone to call for help. “The 911 signal is a great tool, but don’t rely on it,” he advises. “In many parts of New Hampshire’s back country, there is no cell phone coverage.”
For information on safe hiking, visit http://www.hikesafe.com.