June 22, 2022

"On every trail leading to the high country in the Whites, there are signs prominently posted that state, 'STOP. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there...'"

"'... from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.' The high country forecast for last weekend was for snow, ice, and winds over 60 mph. It was accurate.... I've only been hiking the Whites for about 50 years, so I'm still learning about them, but I have learned through hard experience to respect the Presidential Range in particular. Last weekend was clearly a time to stay low. My condolences to this man's family.

That's the highest rated comment on "Hiker who texted his wife he was ‘in trouble’ dies after rescue" (WaPo). 

"Whites" = White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

From the article: 

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials said weather, particularly on the summits, was harsh — freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, snow and 50-to-60-mph sustained winds with gusts over 80 mph. By midafternoon Saturday, officers had received a number of calls from hikers who found themselves unprepared “and instead of turning back or bailing out to safer elevations, they continued on and ultimately called 911 expecting a rescue,” officials said in the news release. 

A quote from the man's wife: "He’s not a quitter — that probably actually got him into trouble this time."

66 comments:

Enigma said...

Gotta get those selfies for Instagram.

https://nypost.com/2021/07/13/influencer-plunges-to-death-while-taking-waterfall-selfie/
https://nypost.com/2021/11/04/woman-falls-100-feet-to-her-death-taking-selfie-in-belgium/
https://petapixel.com/2018/10/31/couple-falls-to-death-during-selfie-at-same-yosemite-spot-as-viral-photo/

Just Do It.


Eleanor said...

I made it a rule and never broke it. Don't climb any mountain you can drive to the top of. It's a waste of time and energy. In the case of Mount Washington, the rule can save your life.

Howard said...

Mt Hood in Oregon is pretty deadly

Robert Marshall said...

Used to hike up Mt. Washington in the early- to mid-Fall while in law school. Nice fall days gave way to freezing temps and extreme wind once you got near the top. But there was a coffee-shop at the summit, so, tolerable.

Set out once in January, on a very clear day, hiking up the auto-road (because you can't lose the trail, and its a gentle slope). But halfway up, when I had to take off a mitten to adjust a crampon, and found my hand numb after very brief exposure, we decided to head back down. Later saw conditions at the top reported as 60+ mph wind, and temperature of -20F. It's bad up there! I've read that it is due to the convergence of a couple of jet stream currents above that area.

Anthony said...

We get that down here in AZ a lot. Well, maybe not a lot, but fairly often. People start out hiking in the morning when it's relatively cool, but when it's 105 by 11 a.m. they don't get that they're losing tons of water and keep going. It's so dry that you don't really realize you're sweating -- because it evaporates so quickly -- and the next thing you know you're dehydrated and overheating.

Lurker21 said...

Maybe I get in before anybody else with a mention of "White privilege" or maybe I don't.

farmgirl said...

My oldest lives in NH &hikes often. She’s done several of those individual summits. So many mountains in that range. I’d heard Mt Washington was going to be freezing and most likely see snow. I’m so sorry a positive trait wasn’t tempered w/a little more humility. It’s ok to turn back if the elements are severely adverse.

P Pilgrim said...

Atticus Maxwell Finch never had any trouble:
https://www.facebook.com/FollowingAtticusBook/photos/a.180078792026569/497033190331126/

gspencer said...

Only one design flaw with all those posted warning signs. That flaw - presumes the reader has reading comprehension.

Yancey Ward said...

I have hiked in them several times- the weather can be very, very different than one would expect in early Summer and before you get up in elevation. The windspeed is the shocking thing.

Rusty said...

Stay on the sidewalk!

Christopher B said...

Without making any claim to know this man's motivation and with due respect to his family, I think it is still possible to draw a useful parallel between his untimely death and the current mania for claiming that anything is possible if you just believe hard enough.

Ignoring reality has consequences.

Owen said...

Darwin Awards are flying off the shelves. Gotta wonder how many grown adults today have poor understanding of just how fast you can die from hypothermia. First you get cold, then you get too cold to move easily or keep walking toward possible safety, then you get uncontrollable shakes, then you lose judgement, then you get sleepy, then you curl up and it's over. (Hypothermia in "warm" water is similar only IMHO way faster still).

Condolences to this guy's family. A pointless loss.

Mountain rescue people get my full respect but what a dangerous and often-thankless task...

Humperdink said...

Worst weather in America? Most unpredictable maybe.

We have signs posted on several hilly dirt roads around here: "No Winter Maintenance". But they do maintain them. The signs are for nimrods.

Temujin said...

I used to go out there every fall from Michigan. I love New Hampshire and the White Mountains are beautiful. But it is known for its weather, the winds, the harshness of the elements, particularly as you get up there. The Mt. Washington Weather Observatory at the top of the highest peak in the 'Whites', records wind speeds up there. Their record was a 231 mph wind recorded 88 years ago. At that time it was the fastest windspeed recorded on land. Not the sort of place you want to be browsing around in without a plan, or competing with nature.

I hiked the Whites a few times over the years. Early autumn. And just did some basic hiking trails that were stunning in their beauty. But I have long chosen to end my hiking days in a hotel. I would not stay outdoors as the day ends in the White Mountains.

J said...

Ego is writing checks the body can't cash.

Buckwheathikes said...

I've hiked almost all the mountains in the Presidential Range - except Mt. Washington.

I've planned three separate Mt. Washington ascents over the years and all three I had to cancel at the last minute due to weather that turned bad.

It's an especially dangerous mountain because there is literally zero cover above about 4,500 feet. Nothing but rocks. Nothing grows there. Not even weeds. It is a very dangerous place and the commenter is correct: there are signs everywhere warning against you climbing that thing in inclement weather. Every year, three or four people die up there. Every. Single. Year.

People never change, it seems.

traditionalguy said...

Global cooling strikes again.

Rollo said...

AA, check out the woman's "Sunset Chaser" shirt in Enigma's third URL. If you buy it through the Althouse portal you could make some money, but beware, sunset chasing can be dangerous.

Tom T. said...

At least the newspaper didn't go with "Whites Kill Asian Man."

Condolences to his family. I wonder if his failure to turn around was because he had become confused by the cold. I would not have expected winter weather in June, but I am not at all familiar with this terrain.

Lem said...

"He’s not a quitter —

Hiking rehab is for quitters...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Been there, didn't do that.

My daughter (mid-twenties), a friend of hers, and I had planned to hike several of the presidentials a few years ago, in July. It was partly sunny, light breeze, nice shorts-and-teeshirt hiking weather. This continued until ~1/4 mile before the col between Madison and Adams. Over that quarter mile the temperature dropped to just above freezing and the wind picked up to ~30mph, with sleet.
We had proper gear for the conditions, so we added layers and continued on. We made it about halfway from there to the summit of Adams before deciding to turn back. The wind was gusty enough that we kept getting blown to the side and having to place a foot off the side of the tail to keep from falling over. And off the trail was a jagged talus field where a broken ankle was a real possibility, and would require calling for rescue.
I've also done a full presidential traverse in near-perfect weather. Amazing hike if you are up for it. Longest stretch of the Appalachian Trail above treeline, hitting New Hampshire's five highest peaks (along with a few others)

madAsHell said...

It's that May-June window of time when all the mountain climbers head for the hills, and some don't come home.

Free Manure While You Wait! said...

Had a friend who worked in Antarctica. He brought me back a sleeping bag that's rated to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At minus 50, deasil fuel turns to gel, rendering your vehicle inoperable and you out in the cold, miles from base, but you'll still be toasty warm. Never go camping without one.

Kevin said...

Don't trust whitey.

John henry said...

Went to the top of Mt Washington in 1961. Didn't hike but rode the cog railway.

I remember being freezing cold, literally, in July.

minnesota farm guy said...

I have hiked the Presidentials in bad weather but nowhere near as bad as this. Once wet and cold and knowing that it wasn't going to get better we got the hell off the mountain. Some in the party wanted to tough it out, but the more experienced hikers said no way and down we went. I am not sure what motivates otherwise intelligent people to continue into a dangerous situation like this. Not only are there the risks from exposure (true at ANYTIME in NE at this altitude), the footing gets terrible as "Ignorance is Bliss" points out. Why the hell should the rescue guys have to risk their lives for someone who commits criminal stupidity?

tim in vermont said...

I don't live that far from there and the winds last week even at lower elevations were ridiculous, with temps dropping to the 40s. We have had about four warm days so far this spring. OK, maybe five.

Dave Begley said...

All you outdoor enthusiasts!

You won't be killed if you canoe, kayak or tube Nebraska's Niobrara river as long as you don't go past Rocky Ford.

Xmas said...

@Humperdink

World's worst weather for sure.

https://snowbrains.com/mount-washington-nh-home-of-the-worlds-worst-weather/

Chest Rockwell said...

It just so happens I'm in the White Mountains for the next two weeks on vacation, outside Conway, NH.

It was 30 degrees on Mt. Washington the other day with snow. We talked about hiking it and decided it was too bloody cold!

Steven Wilson said...

I wonder how quickly the conditions that lead to hypothermia affects the decision making process. It's been noted on here about walking in the southwest where the low humidity allows the hiker to be unaware of just how much water loss is occurring. So, in heat or cold, you make bad decisions about how you are doing and how extreme the conditions are.

Che Dolf said...

I've climbed in the White Mountains many times, and this is the first time I've heard someone call them "the Whites."

gilbar said...

WHY do we have to put up, with this White Privilege?
You do NOT hear of Mountains of Color (MoC's) being allowed to just KILL people!!!
Hundreds (THOUSANDS??) of people are MURDERED by these Whites, and The ONLY thing the authorities do, is put up signs SIDING with the Whites!!!!
THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF RACISM!!!!

Joe Smith said...

I saw a documentary about this.

My AC was on the fritz and it got a bit stuffy at 78-degrees in my living room.

I can attest; it was indeed brutal...

Nice said...

I've been to the White Mtns, they are brutal. The trails there are a lot more steeper and rugged than anything I saw in The rolling Green Mts (Vermont), or what little I've hiked in Canada. NH has beautiful scenic drives, but I'd stay in the car, and not hike their trails.

I think weather is the least of it. The pressure changes of going from one elevation to another, and the body not having time to adjust. In a car is bad enough, when you go up the mountain, and your ears pop, then coming down the Mountain (on an empty stomach, hopefully) and wanting to upchuck. All of that is intensified when you are on foot.

I hike alone for exercise, but my trail is on an extremely low-grade hill, that I'm well-familiar with. These steep canyons and mountains that people aren't familiar with, is a recipe for disaster, no matter how prepared.

DanTheMan said...

>>Only one design flaw with all those posted warning signs. That flaw - presumes the reader has reading comprehension.

Shouldn't the sign have to be in the top 15 non-English languages spoken in New Hampshire? By decree of the HHS, all insurance documents must have this, so why not warning signs?

Just for reference, here are HHS's top 15 for New Hampshire:
1 Spanish
2 French
3 Chinese
4 Nepali*
5 Vietnamese
6 Portuguese
7 Greek
8 Arabic
9 Serbo-Croatian
10 Indonesian*
11 Korean
12 Russian
13 French Creole
14 Bantu
15 Polish

I pity the poor Bantu warrior who will be unable to heed the warning....

Pete said...

I guess he also didn't pay attention to the memorials at places along the trail commemorating those who died there. Very sorry for his family.

JK Brown said...

It's not quitting if you use good judgement regarding growing danger. Sure, you risk feeling bad, perhaps ridicule, if the worst doesn't happen, but I've made decisions, for the better part of valor, and then seen where it could have gone really bad if I'd made the other choice. Made a safer choice, then seen where just a bit later something else happened that would have made the risky choice, in extremis, really quick.

Disasters occur due to a series of choices, often seemingly innocuous if you don't consider how it raises the threat of other elements.

TickTock said...

Most people live such cushy lives that they have forgotten to respect nature, thinking nothing bad will happen, being in the wild is just like visiting a park.

Sebastian said...

Signs should say: absolutely no rescue after this point: proceed at your own risk.

Mason G said...

"I wonder how quickly the conditions that lead to hypothermia affects the decision making process."

A short story describing this...

Frozen Alive- Outside Magazine

Bruce Hayden said...

“Only one design flaw with all those posted warning signs. That flaw - presumes the reader has reading comprehension.”

“WHY do we have to put up, with this White Privilege?
“You do NOT hear of Mountains of Color (MoC's) being allowed to just KILL people!!!
“Hundreds (THOUSANDS??) of people are MURDERED by these Whites, and The ONLY thing the authorities do, is put up signs “SIDING with the Whites!!!!
“THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF RACISM!!!!”

I think that is important, and ties into Ann’s later post on the unfairness of putting the NPS reservation system online. There is likely a fairly high correlation between the ability to read the signs, inclination to hike there (esp in the WHITE Mountains), and WHITE privilege. Likely most of those climbing are either White or honorary Whites (Asians).

Jeff C said...

Was just up on that particular trail last week. Here is the sign:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/JtzQvtSaTECsAYe97

Rabel said...

"Chen was rushed to the Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, N.H., where he died of his injuries, officials said in a statement >Monday<.

His wife did not immediately respond >Tuesday< to a voice mail left by The Washington Post at a phone number listed for her and her husband."

What kind of jackass calls up a grieving wife the day after her husband dies tragically just to get a quote for her story?

"Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, covering national news with an emphasis on health. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism"

Monk said...

I've hiked the NH 48's, including Mt. Washington twice. I've also hiked many western peaks.
I've hit unexpected extreme weather numerous times, including a hail storm on Guadeloupe Peak, Texas in May. I'm also a "highpointer" and have climbed, biked, or driven 39 of the 50 high points in the US. My point is that I've learned to never...never set out into the wild without first packing a "just in case" pack of essential equipment. The Whites can be brutal...besides the weather, there's wet granite, swift water crossings, steep slopes that can be dangerous while ascending and worse while descending, and white-outs that drop from nowhere. I can't tell you how many times I've seen yahoos on the path with no water, no pack, or improper clothing and footwear...blows my mind. Mt Washington and other peaks kill every year...kill even experienced hikers that think "it won't happen to me". Stupid.

Humperdink said...

Xmas said: @Humperdink

World's worst weather for sure.

https://snowbrains.com/mount-washington-nh-home-of-the-worlds-worst-weather/

Yep! So named in 1940.

https://www.davidalbeck.com/hiking/worstweather.html

~ Gordon Pasha said...

Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho claims at least a couple of folks per year. Lava flow beds, clouds come up and there are no reference points. Astronauts trained for the Apollo missions there it's so barren.

~ Gordon Pasha said...

“Nature doesn't ask your permission; it doesn't care about your wishes, or whether you like its laws or not. You're obliged to accept it as it is, and consequently all its results as well.” ~ F. Dostoevsky

typingtalker said...

I recommend the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram (some of us call it a cable car) that comfortably deposits riders 10,440 feet above sea level. At the top you can enjoy the view while eating a hot, fresh off the griddle waffle at Corbet's Cabin.

But wait, there's more!

Craving even more fresh mountain air? Let the professional tandem pilots at Jackson Hole Paragliding elevate your adventure. After a few running steps, you’ll soar high above Jackson Hole and the Teton and Snake River mountain ranges. Relax and inhale breathtaking vistas underneath your bright canopy in the sky.

Ride the Tram

Owen said...

Typingtalker: the best is to take the tram and then drop into Corbett’s Couloir. Crazy.

Owen said...

When we lived in the Yukon every winter a couple of people would slide off the road in winter with no survival gear. Generally their remains would be found in the spring. My Dad never let the Buick on the highway without heavy sleeping bags, a stove and an axe, and at least a .22 to bring down small game.

Owen said...

“Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why,” by Laurence Gonzalez, is a great read at any time and may help illuminate this particular corner of human misadventure. The author says he was inspired to write the book because of his father’s survival in WW2: he was in the crew if a bomber over Germany and had to bail out: and his chute didn’t open. He fell thousands of feet into a stand of trees and was badly injured; then the Germans captured him and treated him very badly; but he lived. Why and how? His son wanted to know more…

Michael said...

Watch recovery team pull the bodies of a family out of Lake Powell. Washed out from a slot canyon during a flash flood. Clear sunny day so I suspect the clan ignored the signs warning thunderstorms 30 miles away can drain into those canypns.

gilbar said...

Owen asked...
Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why

MOST people just close their eyes and quit trying.

Narayanan said...

why not post in big letters :
NO RESCUE WILL BE ATTEMPTED FOR ANYONE -
IF YOU GO UP YOU COME DOWN ===
AND ALSO CARRY OUT OWN TRASH

Bonkti said...

Buckwheathikes said, "There is literally zero cover above about 4,500 feet. Nothing but rocks. Nothing grows there. Not even weeds."

Except lichen growing on the sharp-edged granite rubble that comprises the trail between Mounts Washington and Adams. It's of a little visual interest when dry. But when it is wet, lichen get as slippery as ice even on flat rock and requires one's full attention.Nothing like hard falls on jagged granite. Tentative steps all the way.

The trail is marked by stone cairns on the fields of slag. When the clouds drop on the mountain top, the visibility drops, too, and the markers disappear in the mist. Take a few steps beyond visual range of the last marker in the direction you anticipate the next small pile of stones marking the trail through the larger rocks will appear. If it's there, cool. If not retrace your steps to the last cairn.

There is no way to get to a hut or off the mountain quickly.

The Godfather said...

I climbed Mt. Washington three times. This was in the late 1960's when I was in my mid- to late-teens. All the climbs were probably two weeks on either side of Labor Day.

Now, truth be told, two of the three climbs were made with my father, who was a very sensible man, who didn't think he (or I) had any need to prove anything, so I'm sure he paid attention to the weather forecasts. I remember the signs at the summit about about how cold it could get, and how strong the wind could blow.

We should respect those who wanted to challenge the mountains (or themselves) and didn't survive. Well, it wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy, would it? God bless them, and God comfort their loved ones.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

It's OK to let nature win. No dishonor there.

effinayright said...

Gordon Pasha said...
Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho claims at least a couple of folks per year. Lava flow beds, clouds come up and there are no reference points. Astronauts trained for the Apollo missions there it's so barren.
************

I went there as a kid when I lived in Mountain Home.

VERY unusual formations, not what you would expect in Idaho, which conjures up images of desert, mountains and "spuds".

Nice said...

We are talking about the State of NH, a State that has no sales tax. It's the least Nanny State of anywhere else in the Union. You're on your own.

NH State motto, on all their license plates is: Live Free and Die. Their back-country death (hiking) trails live up to it.

Stay in the car.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

People make mistakes. It's OK to let them.

gpm said...

The weather was horrendous in North Conway both Saturday and Sunday. Hiking the summits on either day was a damn stupid decision. But requiescat in pace.

--gpm

Ralph L said...

In HS, I went to the back side of Seven Springs PA ski mountain when they said (I heard later) it was -60 with the wind chill. I don't know why they had it open. Swinging alone on the 3 chair lift, I pulled up my scarf, which fogged my glasses, which stuck to my nose. I don't remember if anyone else was stupid enough to be on the slope, which fortunately wasn't quite as windy as the lift ride.

Andrew said...

"High country in the Whites" = me and my white privilege. But what non-whites don't understand is that white privilege can be so dangerous. Like the fall of Icarus.

Andrew said...

Maybe copies of the Jack London's story "To Build a Fire" should be available at the beginning of the trail.