BRETTON WOODS— A Haverhill, Mass., man hiking on Mount Washington made his way off the mountain Saturday after his disappearance resulted in a National Guard helicopter being called in and two conservation officers facing a long trek down the mountain where they had hiked to try to find him at his last reported location.
Michael Niles, 31, had sent his wife a picture of himself from just below the Mount Washington summit on Friday at 12:23 p.m.
But when he failed to meet her at a prearranged location, she notified the Appalachian Mountain Club, which in turn called the Fish and Game Department.
While state manpower and equipment was out looking for him, Niles made his way off the mountain, walking into the AMC Highland Center Lodge shortly after 4:30 Saturday afternoon.
The helicopter initially tracked him down, finding tracks in the snow. However, weather conditions made it unsafe for the chopper to follow the tracks and a ground search was initiated to find him.
Conservation officers picked up the tracks and followed them to the Drain River drainage area, a trail that was closed after being significantly damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
But Niles told officers that he lost his bearings during a white-out. Affter being unable to start a fire, he hiked through the night in order to stay warm.
He managed to make his way to state Route 302 where he hitched a ride to the Highland Center.
Niles reported that he was cold, tired and sore but did not require medical treatment. The conservation officers who set out to rescue him make their way to the Dry River Drainage, but faced an overnight trek out of the woods with temperatures in the teens.