Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Unprepared Hiker Rescued From Mt Marcy

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers respond to search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks. Working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations and volunteer search and rescue groups, Forest Rangers locate and extract lost, injured or distressed people from the Adirondack backcountry.

What follows is a report, prepared by DEC, of recent missions carried out by Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks.

Essex County

Town of North Elba
Rescue: At 6:41 pm on November 8, DEC’s Ray Brook Dispatch received a phone call from the family of a stranded hiker on Mount Marcy. Dressed in cotton and inappropriate footwear, the unprepared hiker found himself in inhospitable conditions. The caller’s coordinates placed him just under one-half mile below the summit. The 22-year-old male hiker was contacted via cell phone and placed in contact with Forest Rangers. The hiker stated that he had removed his socks and shoes in order to warm his feet. Rangers instructed the hiker to redress and start hiking, quickly and safely, down the trail back toward Marcy Dam. Rangers entered the woods moving toward the hiker’s location. At 9:40 pm, the hiker relayed through his family that he was running out of light on his phone, which was his only light source, and felt lost. At 10:22 pm, Rangers located the subject and assisted him to his vehicle parked near Adirondak Loj. The incident concluded at 12:30 am.

Be Prepared: Properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.

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26 Responses

  1. Evan Michael says:

    Major kudos and love to our Forest Rangers and other First Responders for saving this young man’s life. Hopefully the hiker can take some serious lessons and the public is reminded how important preparedness is.

  2. Paul says:

    Took his shoes off to warm his feet? You can’t make this stuff up! Incredible! 🙁

    • John Warren says:

      People experiencing hypothermia will often begin removing clothes.

    • Boreas says:

      I can’t say I blame him. Soaked cotton and/or leather against your skin is going to feel pretty damn cold due to conduction. Depending on the ambient temp and activity level, it may feel better and perhaps smarter to remove shoes/socks and rub your feet until they feel warmer. All depends on the situation. But I doubt he walked far without them…

      • Suzanne says:

        This is why it’s a good idea to bring extra dry socks along, preferably wool. Flashlights! Spare batteries! Beef jerky!
        When I was hiking the 46 as an ATIS kid (I’m 46er #258) we wore jeans and sneakers, carried pack baskets and somehow survived, thanks to Jimmy Goodwin. As he always told us,”The North Countree is a hard countree, that mothers a bloody brood. . .” Now that there’s Polartec and so much other advanced gear, there’s little excuse other than ignorance for not being prepared. Not to say I haven’t done a couple of dumb things, myself. Hopefully this kid will have learned from his experience.

  3. Pete Nelson says:

    I checked this article against my personal list of the ten things you should have and/or do when day hiking in winter. Assuming this fellow had water, I peg him at 1 for 10. Epic!

    I’m glad he’s okay, but hiker education is #1 on my list for improving and managing access to the High Peaks.

  4. Eagleye says:

    When are we going to start charging these unprepared people for their rescue? Might help folks think more about being prepared.

  5. CJ says:

    I knew two things before clicking through to the comments on this piece:

    1. At least one person would cite their own expertise and experience in the woods and question why everyone doesn’t know all the things they know. (Check.)

    2. Someone would say: “They should fine him!” (Check.)

    Nothing if not predictable, I guess.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I have to call you right on this! My response was predictable, flippant, and I should have done better. Heck, there was a time when I qualified for an epic list too (in the Cold River area, not the best choice of destination for multiple ignorant/bad choices).

      I meant my point to be that education needs to be at the heart of a High Peaks management strategy, along with more Rangers. You don’t want people with this hiker’s utter lack of preparation trying Marcy in November, but we don’t have the resources to help them. We could come a lot closer: I had interactions with Rangers that taught me plenty, years ago. That’s a tough experience to come by these days.

    • adkDreamer says:

      @CJ. You may have forgot the 3rd one. I am waiting for someone to bring up the ridiculous Hiking License theory again.

      • Boreas says:

        “I am waiting for someone to bring up the ridiculous Hiking License theory again.”

        You just saved me the trouble!

  6. Justin Farrell says:

    I wonder how many 911 calls have been made in say…the past 3 years, that would fall under the “unprepared hiker rescue” category…?
    When is enough enough already?
    Almost every week we read about rescues for unprepared hikers in the weekly Ranger reports posted here on the Almanack. How many more Davis & Stevens stories will it take to make any kind of real change in the amount of unprepared & uneducated hikers & campers etc that visit & recreate in the Adirondack Park year after year? More specifically in the High Peaks region where most of these stories seem to occur.

  7. Tim says:

    I’m glad to see these comment sections used to thank and commend the search and rescue teams and rangers, but sad to see these comment sections used to complain about and condemn people in the woods or on the trails that are unprepared, and who got into trouble. That’s not ever going to change. Rather, why don’t we mention how we stopped a hiker on the trail and asked them where they are headed, and if they had the proper gear in case of trouble? We can do a lot to help and educate would-be safe hikers ourselves and use this platform to showcase how we made a difference or attempted to with proactive communication. This person may have turned around if they’d been asked if they had a headlamp or other light besides his cellphone. Obviously you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink..but we are helping.

    • MF says:

      You’re an optimist, Tim. In my experience, I’d say you have an 80% chance of being told to mind your own #%@#$%@#^ business if you aren’t acting in some official capacity.

    • Timber Brown says:

      I remember being a little older than this kid and attempting a summit in Colorado, near the Loveland Pass. I was stopped by an older guy on the way down, who pointed out storm clouds behind me. Being inexperienced, I misjudged the distance (that happens above the tree line, losing usual perspective) and said I’d be fine. I finally heeded his advice after another 1/4 mile and turned around. 20 minutes later was on a dead run through a thunderstorm. At first, I was offended by the old timer’s warning. I’m 54 now, and wish I could thank him for caring enough to say something.

  8. Glenn says:

    He should be ticketed or something for
    Entering that area so unprepared. What a
    got dam idiot.

  9. James Lynch says:

    We learn lessons, we give lessons. We are open to experience. If we are wise, we research and plan. For those who don’t, it’s a crap shoot. There are signs and warnings. May the higher powers help those who do not heed them.

  10. geogymn says:

    Methinks education is the only solution. How that is accomplished will take money. Knuckleheads don’t search for an education, it has to be forced down their throats. Think “Danger of tobacco” ads. It took years and lots of money for that to sink in and there are still plenty of users and always will be.
    When I was a youngster I done plenty of stupid things, including an early spring, unprepared, hike up Algonquin (with, I might add, a very well respected, outdoor enthusiast, Lake Placid resident).
    The person in this article was a knucklehead. I was a knucklehead, and by some accounts still am.

  11. Paul says:

    People hear about these places and opportunities to hike on social media or at sites like this now. They no longer learn about it from seasoned people who can teach them the skills they need to know to stay safe.

  12. Charlie S says:

    Tim says: “why don’t we mention how we stopped a hiker on the trail and asked them where they are headed, and if they had the proper gear in case of trouble?”

    On October 12 I hiked the west and east trails of the Ausable River with a friend. A very pleasant walk. The river was very high on this day and Beaver Meadow Falls was roaring over its precipice. The colors were gorgeous! On the way out a young couple stopped us as they were on their way into wherever it was they were going on Ausable Club land. They asked directions and told us they planned on spending the night atop such and such mountain. They were far from prepared as they had hardly any good clothing with them and we saw no water bottles. That night was supposed to get chilly and there’s just no way they would have had a good night in them woods the way they were so unprepared. After we went in our directions John and I spoke about how ‘not so smart’ these two hikers were………but not once did we think about talking to them about it. Only after we moved on did we (I) think about this. Since I haven’t heard any incidents relative to this area and this date I assumed all was okay. Personally I think they were just going to find a place to make a little whoopee in the woods then head out.

  13. M.P. Heller says:

    Hiking in the high peaks seems to have a disproportionate share of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  14. Wayno17 says:

    Blame probability, the more people that hike in the High Peaks the better the chances that someone totally unprepared and inept will be one of them. They’re just fortunate that the DEC is there to bail them out. Hopefully there will be even more Rangers available in the future.

  15. Hope says:

    Where’s Pete Fish when you need him. It’s unfortunate that there is not enough staff to keep a few rangers in the woods. It’s too bad that rangers have to be more “law enforcement” than the “educators” they used to be. It was much better when EnCon did the policing and Rangers did the educating.

    • Boreas says:


      There are many Pete Fish out there working today. He wasn’t Superman, rather he was a Ranger simply given the latitude to perform his job as he saw fit. Unfortunately Ranger’s job requirements have changed due to poor political decisions leading to the under-staffing you mention. We remember Pete because he could be seen anywhere, any day – especially if you just screwed up (He didn’t care much for cotton or post-holers…). That is no longer the case. A cell phone will never take the place of proper education and proper emergency gear.

      Until we elect politicians that can see beyond Albany and their comfy career compensation, I don’t see anything changing WRT the ongoing staff freeze that has been going on long past its political usefulness.