The body of 61-year-old Hua Davis of Wilmington, Delaware was discovered on the backside of MacNaughton Mountain, according to media reports.
Davis is said to have begun her hike on Friday and was reported overdue to Forest Rangers, who found her body about 4 p.m., Saturday afternoon.
It’s believed she became hypothermic and disoriented. Temperatures were well-below freezing Friday night and there is still deep snow in the higher elevations of the High Peaks.
MacNaughton is a remote peak due north of the Upper Works trailhead in Tahawus, accessed in winter by orienteering rather than a marked trail. While there are herd paths at the summit, cripple-bush is common and the upper portions of the mountain are covered by blowdown.
According to comments posted to social media, Davis was a well-known and experienced hiker. Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau noted that she was the 1,000th Saranac 6er. “We are saddened and sorry for her passing and extend our condolences to her family,” Rabideau said in a post to social media. A post on the Saranac 6er Facebook page from 10:53 am Thursday read “On the way to bag the 6 peaks.”
Despite offering limited views, from the 1950s to the 1970s MacNaughton was believed to be over 4,000 feet and was climbed by many 46ers (its actual elevation is 3,983 ft). The peak is named for James MacNaughton, grandson of Adirondack Iron Works organizer Archibald McIntyre.
On Monday, DEC issued the following statements:
“On Saturday, March 5, 2016 Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers began searching for an overdue hiker who did not return to her hiking party the night before. After locating the subject’s car at the Adirondack Loj, Forest Rangers began an immediate and extensive search of MacNaughton Mountain and the surrounding area. After searching most of the day through snow, mud and cold temperatures, Forest Rangers found 61-year-old Hua Davis, of Wilmington, DE deceased on the western slopes of MacNaughton Mountain and then worked with New York State Police helicopter to transport her to Lake Placid Airport.
“After completing the recovery operation in difficult backcountry terrain, as Forest Rangers hiked out a Forest Ranger fell through the ice of a brook and was submerged chest deep while carrying a 50-pound backpack. Fellow Rangers quickly pulled their colleague from the icy water, changed his clothes and stabilized his core temperature while the outdoor air temperature was in the lower 20’s.
“The Rangers requested an emergency extraction to prevent frostbite and hypothermia from overtaking the Forest Ranger. New York State Police and Forest Rangers, using night vision goggles, preformed a difficult, nighttime rescue operation in the Adirondack wilderness to secure the Rangers and transport them to Lake Placid Airport. The Forest Ranger was determined to be in stable condition and after warming up was sent back into service.”
“On March 5, 2016 at 1:11 p.m., DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a request for assistance for a 35-year-old male from Brooklyn, NY who slipped and sustained a lower leg injury on Little Haystack Mountain. The hiker made his way to the false summit of Haystack where he was able to call for assistance. DEC Forest Rangers were in the area for a current search near McNaughton Mountain and assisted the injured male. The New York State Police Aviation assisted and reached the injured man at 3:20 p.m. He was packaged and hoisted out at 3:35 p.m. and flown to Adirondack Health in Saranac Lake for treatment. The incident concluded at 4:00 p.m.”
This story has been updated with comments from Mayor Clyde Rabideau and a statement by DEC.
Photo: Snow capped High Peaks on Friday evening, March 4, 2016 (by John Warren).