UPDATE: DEC has released video of the summit helicopter rescue here.
Two hikers who had been missing in the High Peaks since Sunday have been found alive.
Blake Alois, 20, and Madison Popolizio, 19, both of Niskayuna, a suburban town west of Albany, were found less than a quarter mile from the summit of Algonquin Peak at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The two were located by Forest Ranger Scott Van Laer and Lake Placid climber Don Mellor, who were among dozens of professional searchers looking for the pair. A state police helicopter transported them to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, where they were treated for cold-related injuries.
“They were not that far off the summit, so we can maybe surmise that they ran out of daylight, they lost the trail due to snow conditions, (or) often many times hikers are pushed by the wind in a certain direction,” said Forest Ranger Captain John Streiff at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “It sounds like these two hikers may have been pushed off the summit, and they sought shelter by the sounds of it. I’m really not sure how they did it, whether it was a snow cave or a tent or something like that.”
The pair had set off Sunday morning to climb Algonquin, the state’s second-highest mountain at 5,114 feet. When they didn’t return, a family member contacted the DEC.
Relatives were concerned that they had not heard from the hikers since noon on Sunday. At the time of the last contact, the two sent photos and videos, and they appeared to be in good condition and wearing winter clothing, DEC said in a news release.
Starting early Sunday evening, Rrngers searched the trails to Algonquin and Lake Colden until 3:45 a.m. Later Monday morning, more than 20 rangers began searching the trails and drainages around Algonquin. Snow, clouds, and winds prevented the use of helicopters to aid the search and posed difficulties for the rangers. The snow was up to three feet deep.
On Tuesday morning, more than two dozen rangers, along with State Police, resumed the search. Also, police helicopters joined the search.
On Monday night, a woman identifying herself as Kate Pop and Madison Popolizio’s sister posted the following message on Facebook:
“EMERGENCY: my little sister madison and her boyfriend Blake have been missing in the Adirondack mountains (Algonquin peak) for 2 days, last heard from yesterday around noon. Plz share this and pray for them!”
The post was shared more than 3,000 times, with many people offering to help in the search. DEC, however, was not seeking volunteer assistance. “At this time, due to the adverse conditions DEC forest rangers are not seeking additional assistance from the friends and family members of the lost hikers as this could only add additional risk to the searchers and divert resources from finding the missing hikers,” the department said in the news release.
On Tuesday, Kate Pop updated the news on her Facebook page: “we were just informed they have been located and are alive! Efforts to get them down the mountain are in progress. I just want to say thank you to everyone for the prayers, it really is a beautiful thing that so many people have shown so much compassion.”
Explorer staff writer Mike Lynch contributed to this report, adding updates at 6 p.m. Tuesday, December 13.
Photo: Screenshot of the missing hikers from Facebook.