Concord, N.H. — Two wilderness rescues last night emphasize the need for hikers and climbers to factor shorter days/diminishing daylight into their plans for outdoor recreation in the Granite State, New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said today.
In Franconia, a 10-member team from the Conway-based Mountain Rescue Service responded to a 911 call for help from three college students who had become stranded partway up Cannon Cliffs as darkness fell last night (Sunday, October 23, 2011). The rock climbers were Jonathan Merritt, age 18, of Lander, Wyoming; Jason Reitman, age 18, of Potomac, Maryland; and Alexander MacMillan, age 19, of Boston, Massachusetts, all freshmen at Wesleyan University.
The young men were equipped with climbing gear and lights, but were not prepared to deal with overnight mountain temperatures dipping into the 20’s (degrees F). They had set out early — at 5:30 a.m. — for their climb up the Moby Grape route up Cannon Cliffs, but as the day progressed, they became overextended on terrain that required more than their level of expertise. By 8:00 p.m. they had not reached the top of the cliff and used a cell phone to call for help.
A rescue commenced, coordinated by the N.H. Fish and Game Department. Franconia Notch State Park officials opened the Cannon Mountain tramway and ferried Mountain Rescue Service crew and Fish and Game officers up the mountain at 10:40 p.m. From the top, the search team located the climbers using GPS coordinates from the 911 call and light signals from the stranded men. Mountain Rescue Service volunteers hiked from the summit down to a point where they could lower three rescuers by rope to the climbers’ location, where they secured the young men with ropes, and all were lifted to safety about 1:40 a.m. The teens were cold and tired, but not injured. They were then able to hike down the mountain, along with the rescue team, arriving at the parking lot at 2:45 a.m.
“We are seeing multiple rescues every weekend,” said N.H. Fish and Game Conservation Officer James Kneeland. “Among other safety precautions, hikers and climbers need to take into account that the days are getting shorter when they plan their fall outings.”
In another incident on Sunday evening (October 24, 2011), 46-year-old hiker Brian Pflanz of Somersworth, N.H., was rescued on Mount Major in Alton. Pflanz became disoriented and lost the trail near the summit, then slipped and fell on a mossy area. He was not injured, but realized he was off the trail and it was getting dark, so he called for help about 6:30 p.m. N.H. Fish and Game Conservation Officers and Alton Fire Department personnel responded, finding him using GPS coordinates via his cell phone, and hiked him back down the mountain trail, arriving at the trailhead about 8:20 p.m.
For more information on safe hiking, visit http://www.hikesafe.com.