Rescuers scramble to save four hikers in two separate incidents on Mt. Washington
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN New Hampshire Union Leader
SARGENT’S PURCHASE — Fish and Game conservation officers began Friday afternoon dealing with a rescue of two hikers who were way beyond their skills on the Huntington Ravine Trail and then led into the early morning hours Saturday with a second incident, a life-saving operation a mile down from the summit of Mt. Washington.
Abby Finis, 35, and Julia Eagles, 34, both from Minneapolis, Minn., had been hiking up Tuckerman Ravine Trail Friday when they decided to take a detour up Huntington Ravine Trail. The latter route is referred to as the “most difficult trail in the White Mountains.”
The pair told Fish and Game officials they saw and ignored warning signs that they not hike this trail unless they were very experienced.
The pair made a 911 call for help around 3 p.m.
Both weren’t dressed for the hike in shorts and little else in their packs but water with gusting winds reaching 60-70 mph and the temperature in the lower 40s higher up the trail, officials said.
Rescuers got to the pair at 5:52, provided them with warm clothing and helped them through the steepest part of the trail.
They were brought back to the Pinkham Appalachian Mountain Club headquarters, where the day had started for Finis and Eagles.
Officials said this was the second such rescue off that trail this summer.
“I do not want to see it return to the way it was a few summers ago, when there was literally a call of this nature every week,” Fish and Game Lt. Mark Ober said. “These are not what I consider true emergencies and only place a drain on our already limited resources. These unnecessary calls just take officers away from what they should be doing.”
Shortly after clearing that scene, officials learned of a second, much more dangerous incident on the Huntington Ravine Trail Friday night.
A 911 call came in at 8:45 p.m. from a California man reporting his 77-year-old father and his father’s 71-year-old hiking companion had told him they were exhausted, cold and requesting a rescue.
The only information was the dropped call came from about one mile down from the summit of Mt. Washington.
Searchers from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue and Fish and Game conservation officers searched trails where the distressed hikers were last reported.
The searchers endured falling temperatures and 50-60 mph winds in an attempt to locate the hikers, officials said.
At 11:20 p.m., Alice Rubenstein, 71, of Pittsford, N.Y., and Arthur Stern, 77, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., were found off the Tuckerman Ravine trail. Both hikers were woefully unprepared, dressed in shorts and light hiking apparel and suffering from various stages of hypothermia.
Rescuers had to make a demanding, one-mile carry of each hiker up to the summit before they could be brought down on the Mt. Washington Auto Road.