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  1. #1
    Registered User thestin's Avatar
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    Default Missing hiker's body found


  2. #2

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    Yup it is a tough one. Sounds like classic hypothermia. I live just north of the location. The forecast for Sunday was good in the morning, degrading as the day went along. At least at my place, it was quite windy and snowing on and off all day. The trail she took, Old Bridal Path, is fairly well protected from the wind until the Greenleaf Hut. Soon after the hut, the trail loses its shelter and is exposed to full wind. On many days it requires a major addition of gear to be able to go further. The hiker reportedly did not have the gear or experience in winter like conditions. The initial rescue teams sent out that night claimed that the only way they could get down off the summit cone was by crawling due to high winds. Lafayette attracts a lot of people due to easy access and heavy exposure on social media. On a good day anytime of the year it's an incredible hike but the weather can turn quickly. Whenever I am up there on a good day, I see many folks poorly equipped slipping and sliding without adequate gear in icy conditions. The first thing that goes with hypothermia is the lack of clear thinking. A group can watch out for each other to some extent but when someone is solo its easy to make bad decision and that will multiply.

    RIP

  3. #3

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    A tragic story to be sure, my thoughts go to the family who are grieving the loss.

    Spend enough time hiking alone can make one feel impervious to the effects of nature, to the point we can convince ourselves we know better and second guess a forecast, time and distance estimates versus real conditions, or even dismissing visibly worsening conditions around us as being temporary. We can have the right gear, have the right health, and have the right day for our planned hike, but one misplaced step, a tiny change in an approaching weather system changing it's weather creation potential, and a hundred other very small things can change the entire complexion of the adventure from a challenging day hike to a potentially lethal trip in minutes. This is the birthplace of a chain of events that if not recognized, can lull one into that false sense of security to push on.

    Part of the preparation for a solo hike, regardless of the time of year or area selected should be to reduce and/or mitigate circumstances that can lead to slowly diminishing mental processes. Hypothermia, heat stroke, injury, exhaustion, hunger, losing the trail, diminishing daylight, to name a few are all waiting for us along with super views along the hiking route and the accomplishment of meeting a challenge. While two or more people can easily spot dangers, by yourself these warnings can be easy ignored or rationalized.

    Borrowing from aviation in breaking the chain of events leading to an accident, I use the "three strikes" rule whenever I am hiking alone. Footgear getting wet, snow depth that increases without snow shoes, sudden temperature drop, icing without foot traction, a sudden rain/snow squall line that erases footprints and blazes, loss of daylight without a headlamp. These are just some of the small issues that can pop up that I will mentally track, when the third issue rolls into the picture I typically make the decision to return, especially in cold weather. Any three of these (or additional things) is enough to turn back especially during winter hikes.

    I also track time it takes to make decisions. I look at the time when I discover a small problem and make a decision on what to do about it. I have noticed over the years doing this I have a "healthy head" time of roughly 40 to 80 seconds to recognize the options I have to resolve a problem and make a decision. As I continue on, the effects of cold, heat, and exertion can cause that time to become longer to make similar executive decisions. Having had both hypothermia and heat stroke I find there is little education in the second kick of that mule and heed the advanced warning. When that happens, I know there is a problem developing and I will turn around today, when years ago I may have opted to push on.

    It is indeed very distressing when someone out for what should be a fun hike succumbs to the elements. We honor them by reviewing the circumstances of the event and learning from it, as ignoring it will not benefit anyone and their contribution to the hiking community is lost.

  4. #4

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    This is the second hypothermia death in the whites this year. Both attributed to lack of adequate gear and unexpected weather conditions.

    The forecast looks good for Saturday, I expect the parking lot will be full of folks doing the same loop. Many will be poorly equipped without adequate warm weather gear or traction despite the risk.

  5. #5

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    She was dressed as a trail runner, so I guess she thought she could do the traverse quickly. The family was staying at a timeshare in the Notch, with a clear view of Lafayette so she should have known the mountain was covered with snow. Saturday was a clear day, although they might have arrived after dark if they arrived on Saturday.

    I've been puzzled by how she got to where they found her, down in the Lafayette brook drainage. I suspect she got to the hut or just above tree line and decided to head back down. By then she would have been well into snow and the wind picking up. But instead of returning the way she came up on the Old Bridal Path, she must have gotten onto the Greenleaf path instead, either by accident or design. There is a point on the Greenleaf trail where it makes a turn to the west to go through a notch. She must have missed that turn and continued going downhill and ended up in the Lafayette brook.
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  6. #6

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    I agree that the location is not clear on news reports I have seen. The Lafayette Brook drainage runs almost up to the summit and the trail crosses into it as it goes from the west of the summit to the NW of the summit before turning into a steep slab chute that goes SE up to the final relatively flat approach to the summit. No mention was made of her having traction. My thoughts are she got up to the chute and and had a tough time with no traction. Its easy to slip there and if someone does going up or down they rapidly end up in the drainage. The assumption was when she got lost early stage hypothermia was kicking in and she possbily rationalized that following it down would lead back to the Greenleaf hut. It unfortunately does not unless someone does steep slab along a contour south. Visibility was bad so even if she had the mental skills at that point its tough rout to go using dead reckoning. The terrain will suck someone down well past the hut almost to the base drainage.

  7. #7
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    What a shame and terrible thing to have happened she was so young! And the poor family's holidays will never be the same.
    At least she was found and they can have some closure.....
    My heart and prayers are for the family .

  8. #8
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Sorry I meant to add that this reminded of the young lady just a couple years ago was going to trail run up over Mt Madison I believe and got up there and experienced high winds blowing snow and also succumb to the elements

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Sorry I meant to add that this reminded of the young lady just a couple years ago was going to trail run up over Mt Madison I believe and got up there and experienced high winds blowing snow and also succumb to the elements
    Kate Matrosova https://sectionhiker.com/death-in-th...sova-incident/ It was far more extreme conditions. The rescuers barely could make it above treeline.

  10. #10
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    ...A group can watch out for each other to some extent but when someone is solo its easy to make bad decision and that will multiply.
    This is a great reminder to those of us who enjoy hiking solo. And anyone reading (crickets probably) that enjoys "done in a day" activities of this variety that perhaps don't seem so extreme, but are.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    This is a great reminder to those of us who enjoy hiking solo. And anyone reading (crickets probably) that enjoys "done in a day" activities of this variety that perhaps don't seem so extreme, but are.
    It can work both ways. With others there is risk of group dynamics keeping people going forward in conditions they would have turned back in alone. It can be hard for some people to be the first one to speak up.

    As a soloist I am very aware of conditions internally and externally. Making sure I don't die is one of the things I agreed to before my family allowed me to go alone and I take that promise pretty seriously. Knowing when to turn back or make camp early for safety is not an exact science. The key is to err on the side of caution. Far better to go home early under your own power than be carried out later. I am definitely proud to call myself an experienced quitter.

    Sad story here. Seems looking at a high elevation weather report may have helped because I can't imagine she knew what she was getting in to.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  12. #12
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoneStranger View Post
    It can work both ways. With others there is risk of group dynamics keeping people going forward in conditions they would have turned back in alone. It can be hard for some people to be the first one to speak up.

    As a soloist I am very aware of conditions internally and externally. Making sure I don't die is one of the things I agreed to before my family allowed me to go alone and I take that promise pretty seriously. Knowing when to turn back or make camp early for safety is not an exact science. The key is to err on the side of caution. Far better to go home early under your own power than be carried out later. I am definitely proud to call myself an experienced quitter.

    Sad story here. Seems looking at a high elevation weather report may have helped because I can't imagine she knew what she was getting in to.
    Another good point and I feel the same way about my prep. And the prep is not that hard, but it does require some time to think about things. I think many of the tragic mistakes we see are simply lack of forethought. Not meant as a cut to this unfortunate woman, happens to a lot of otherwise smart folks.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    Another good point and I feel the same way about my prep. And the prep is not that hard, but it does require some time to think about things. I think many of the tragic mistakes we see are simply lack of forethought. Not meant as a cut to this unfortunate woman, happens to a lot of otherwise smart folks.
    A motivated person with a plan is a very dangerous thing. It is really hard to plan something big and then not go, for anyone. For highly motivated people it is tempting to "try" which can lead to stories like this one, Kate M and many others. By the time they realize they are in trouble it is far too late. The power of positive thinking is great up to a point, but the power of negative thinking can be a life saver. A little doubt can be a good thing at times.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  14. #14
    Registered User One Half's Avatar
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    I've always been a planner and tried to be prepared. I never did even a planned "day hike" in the Whites without the ability to stay out overnight in case something unexpected happened. These days I don't even go for for an hour long hike without my Inreach mini. While here the dangers are much different - more likely to get bit by a copperhead or such - you really never know. I started using this in Florida last winter (gators you know!). There are just times when I want my cell phone off (or not even carried) and I can just carry the mini and still have contact if needed.
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  15. #15
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    A tragedy indeed

    While planning a hike I always carried food for an extra night in case circumstances developed that required spending an extra night out. Also, I let someone know the planned route, and anticipated return date/time, with the caveat that I could be out another day pass the original return time. If I had not returned/contacted them within 24 hours of the original return time, then they could get nervous.

    I also always carry a compass and a map of the area where I hike. In the rare case where it might be necessary to have to “bushwack” I wanted to know where I could do it. I guided in Montana, and it always amazed me how some of the “seasoned” hunters could so easily get turned around and disoriented in the woods.
    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

    Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

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    Registered User One Half's Avatar
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    Another point I make to people who are hiking in the Whites is that I never go there without a compass and a map of the whole area. If I'm hiking the AT, I'm not just going to carry the AT map. I carry a map with all the trails so that if I need to exit via a different route I can see my options. I personally know how to read and understand contour lines as well (it's amazing to me how many people can't).
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    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by One Half View Post
    Another point I make to people who are hiking in the Whites is that I never go there without a compass and a map of the whole area. If I'm hiking the AT, I'm not just going to carry the AT map. I carry a map with all the trails so that if I need to exit via a different route I can see my options. I personally know how to read and understand contour lines as well (it's amazing to me how many people can't).
    Great points. But there are a lot of people who are "Directional challenged" and also "Tech adverse" (Even to a compass). Inchworm always comes to mind about getting lost while very close to the AT.
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  18. #18
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    I have a friend in California who has been a member of a SAR team for many years. He said they do more rescues per year since people started depending of GPS and cellphones. Once the battery goes dead they have no idea how to navigate back to safety so they just call for rescue.

    Like One Half I know how to read a map and compass. When I guided hunting clients, even though I was thoroughly knowledgeable of the area, I took the time to give them a quick education on how to orientate the map and use my compass to get back to a main trail and base camp in case of an emergency.

    Like rhjanes stated there are people that are directional challenged. What is even more scary is someone who looks at a compass and then doesn't believe it is pointing them in the right direction.

    Or the person that is 10lbs overweight that doesn't carry a map or compass "to save weight" in their pack.
    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

    Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

  19. #19
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    I also frequently hike alone, including doing a number of the NH 4K's in winter.

    Just to add to all the above, I won't hike anywhere in the Whites after Nov. 1 without microspikes in my bag. I also carry them in October if the forecast is even slightly iffy or if there's been snow at all by then. I have a friend who got caught in a snow squall and had to hike down the Liberty trail in icy conditions in the 2nd weekend of this past October.

    Microspikes are one of the best things to happen for winter/wintry conditions hiking for years, I think--so much better than instep crampons, tho' those were certainly way better than nothing.

    Safe hiking, friends.

    Vaya con Gaia, Emily.

  20. #20
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    I'm late to this post but I wanted to ask how do we know what route she climbed up. Various news reported that Sotelo intended to hike Mount Lafayette, Mount Haystack and Mount Flume. Reports also stated Mom watched her walk up trail from the parking lot at Lafayette Place Camp ground. Was she really intending to hike the whole ridge South all the way to Mount Flume. BTW descent of Mt Flume is dicey in good weather. I assumed that was a typo somehow and she ascended up Falling Waters Trail and got lost and misdirected coming down from the summit of Lafayette and that she had drifted off trail in white out conditions ending up in the Lafayette Brook Drainage. I guess its a moot point but I havent seen anyone else anywhere comment about whether she had intended to hike all the way to Mount Flume. RIP Emily

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