Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adirondack Hiker Dies At MacNaughton Mountain

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.

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8 Responses

  1. Eric Hamlin says:

    Our deepest sympathies.

  2. Boreas says:

    A tragedy indeed.

    It is a tough, confusing mountain. When I climbed MacNaughton a few decades ago, I climbed it solo in good weather. Even with map & compass I still managed to get turned around twice – once finding the summit and again taking the wrong bushwhack down. I can imagine the difficulty under winter conditions.

    My condolences.

  3. NoTrace says:

    A technical point and possible correction: I’m not sure your source has this right about McNaughton; you say, “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)” I believe this is actually a description pertaining to Couchsachraga, not MacNaughton. It is my understanding that MacNaughton actually IS over 4,000 feet high, which is why many 46ers climb it, even though it is not on the official list.

    • John Warren says:

      Heaven Up-Histed (46ers, 2011) gives the story as it is here, as does the ADK’s High Peaks trail guides in 2004, and in 1985, just after the new maps were issued in 1979.

      The 1992 guide notes that it was the only mountain to be raised to 4,000 feet in the 1953 map series, and says of the 1970s adjustment “the highest contour elevation when converted to feet is less than 4000 feet, although the actual top elevation is probably above 4000 feet.”

  4. Charlie S says:

    “Temperatures were well-below freezing Friday night…”

    I spent Friday and Saturday nights in Raquette Lake. I recorded the temperature there Saturday morning as near zero. I would imagine there would have been pockets of colder air in the higher elevations north of Newcomb. These low temperatures are not to be taken lightly when in the woods. My condolences also!

  5. common sense says:

    I am piecing this all together now…Rangers were assisting SP in Tupper Lake on a search, looking for Ms. Davis on MacNaughton, and doing a rescue on the great range all on saturday. And I thought this was the slow season!?

  6. […] The 47th High Peak that didn’t make the 46er list due to a survey error, MacNaughton Mountain is a 4000’ trail-less bushwack that gets left behind by many since it’s not required to become a 46r. It’s also not for everybody since navigating can be tricky and, depending on the weather, deadly. […]

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