Sunday, January 5, 2020

On Algonquin in Winter Bad Luck Can Be Fatal

Bad luck on the peak of Algonquin, the state’s second highest mountain, can be fatal in winter. On December 29th, 1979, a member of the Brooklyn College Outing Club took a fall just shy of the summit. Tremendous pain shot through the shoulder of 18-year-old Michael Boxer.

Thankfully his legs were unaffected, and he was able to walk for a time before rangers arrived, stabilizing the injury and carrying him out to minimize the pain and more safely navigate the terrain. The swelling was severe and upon arriving at the hospital, it was learned the shoulder was dislocated.

The rangers I spoke to for this article – 40 years after it happened – can’t remember many details from that rescue, but they do remember Michael Boxer by name and the search for him on the same mountain, 371 days later.

The Brooklyn College outing club came back to the Adirondack Loj, the main trailhead for the High Peaks, a year later, camping for several nights in December and into the new year of 1981. Michael Boxer was now the leader of the club, which comprised a total of 6 students. He was strong, fit, and determined to reach the summit of Algonquin, after failing to make the summit the year before. The group spent several days at the ADK campground getting outdoor experience, building improvised shelters, and doing day trips into the wilderness.

A deep freeze – even for the Adirondacks – hit the area as 1980 faded into 1981. On January 2nd , after spending a night outside at 35 below, the group awoke conflicted about a planned hike of Algonquin. Boxer, young and undeterred by the cold, found only one other member of the team willing to go with him, Steven Sygman, who was a few years older. The rest of the outing club remained behind.

Boxer and Sygman had excellent gear at the base camp but deciding what to bring with them would be fateful and such choices are always a matter of some opinion as mountaineers try to minimize weight while having adequate gear for emergency use. If everything went well, the ascent would only be 6-8 hours. They dressed appropriately for the conditions in layers and wool sweaters. They had crampons for the icy sections they were sure to encounter along the wind-swept slopes. However, they chose not bring snowshoes since the trail was well packed down. They packed their ensolite sleeping pads but left behind a tent and their sleeping bags, they also carried quite a bit of food for a day hike, including a stove to heat up food and water.

They got an early start, departing the Loj at 8 am. There were a few other hikers on the MacIntyre range that day. The winds were strong, one hiker described being knocked off his feet by a gust on Wright Peak. Things went well for the pair and by early afternoon they succeeded in their goal and were atop Algonquin in some of the most extreme weather the High Peaks had ever seen. It was not a time for long celebration and they quickly turned around and began the descent.

The summit is above tree line and finding one’s way down in winter can be tricky. There are well built stone cairns and yellow paint markings on the bedrock to guide hikers but in the winter, and especially in heavy snow, these can be invisible. They attempted to follow their fresh foot prints in the snow made just minutes earlier but suddenly they were gone, obliterated by the wind.

Then bad luck struck Michael Boxer yet again as the clouds came in and a white out descended. They were lost in arctic conditions. They moved around the summit cone attempting to find a stone cairn or the tracks they made on the way up, to no avail. As they wandered the barren landscape the wind and slope began to affect where they went. It pulled them into a funnel, a drainage that has collected dozens of wayward hikers and mountaineers over the years, several of whom did not survive. However, all of those were climbing solo. Michael Boxer and Steven Sygman had each other.

They found themselves in a drainage which not only collects lost mountaineers, it also collects snow, several feet of it much unconsolidated. They lacked snowshoes which would have allowed them to travel on top of the snow. They now were wallowing through it and getting wet. The temperature was still below zero. Eventually, they found themselves in the trees, protected from the wind but encountering more snow.

They were committed to this direction. Going downhill following a drainage was good or better than the exposed summit but bad luck struck again. Although the snow was shallowest and travel generally easiest in the drainage, there was still water flowing beneath their feet. Boxer broke through the snow and ice and got both feet wet above the ankle and had water in his boots.

They kept going for a time, but it happened again. They stopped. Boxer took off his boots and they almost instantly froze. When he tried to get his feet back in the boots, he couldn’t. Instead, he put mittens on his feet and placed them inside his pack sitting on his sleeping pad. The pair was stopped; it was dark. They decided to bivouac together and wait for help.

They had plenty of food. They fired up the cook stove, making hot chocolate and capturing some warmth from the open flame of the burner. They had very little fuel for the stove and it soon ran out. They ate some instant Jello, dry and cold. They exercised in place when they began to shiver. They huddled together sharing body heat.

Steven Sygman’s feet were wet also, though not as bad, so eventually he took his boots off and wrapped up his feet in his pack as well. There, deep in a drainage on the west side of Algonquin they struggled for their lives, battling hypothermia at -35 degrees. “I kept Michael awake through most of the night,” Sygman would explain to a Lake Placid News reporter in 1981. “He seemed drowsy and incoherent at times and he shivered a lot.”

When neither Sygman nor Boxer made it back to the campsite at the Loj, the rest of the members of the Brooklyn College Outing Club reported them overdue. Forest Rangers began heading in at first light on January 3rd . Ranger Pete Fish led a crew up Algonquin following the main trail from the Loj. Dick Blinn, Lake Colden caretaker, began up the trail from that side.

Ranger Dave AmesRanger Gary Hodgson, who was in charge of the incident, theorized on the hikers’ possible location to the Lake Placid News: “They probably started down my favorite stream. If they follow it, they’ll come out near the Scotts Clearing leanto on the Indian Pass Trail.” Hodgson was already a legend by 1981. He spent as much of his off time roaming the woods as he did while working as ranger. The reason it was his “favorite” stream was because he had caught big native brook trout there deep in the woods, well beyond where any other angler would venture.

Hodgson was correct, they were in his favorite stream. Ranger Joe Rupp led the crew heading that way. More bad luck, a helicopter was not available. They were still waiting for the cloud cover to clear. The forecast was favorable for a break in the weather in the afternoon. Meanwhile the search crews on the ground pressed on.

Rupp’s crew had to contend with deep snow on the Indian Pass Trail and eventually the drainage, their primary search area. Fortunately, the forecast was correct and by 2 pm a helicopter was in the air. Hodgson drove out to the Lake Placid airport to meet it. Ranger Doug Bissonette was the Crew Chief and Ranger Dave Ames was also aboard.

Huey on AlgonquinThey flew straight for Scott lean-to and began searching the drainage. They couldn’t see anything in the trees but above tree line they saw the pair’s tracks from the day before heading down hill and into the drainage. Circling again, they could not find Boxer and Sygman. Ranger Pete Fish’s crew was now on the summit and moving towards the top of the drainage. Rupp and his crew were making slow progress up the drainage and were not that far above the lean-to.

From the helicopter, Ranger Bissonette peered down on the mountain and picked out an opening in the drainage to lower Rangers Hodgson and Ames. Maintaining a hover about 80 feet above the ground he lowered the two Rangers to join the search on foot. Once inserted, the Huey banked away to allow the search teams space to work and yell for the missing men.

Hodgson and Ames put on their snowshoes and began following their tracks. Within minutes they heard a whistle blow and moments later they were at the bivouac site where the boys from Brooklyn had huddled together for the past 18 hours. They had survived. They saw the helicopter flying overhead and had been frantically waving at it to no avail.

Reflecting on it nearly 40 years later Michael Boxer tried to recount the night and what was going through his mind. “I was in charge of the group, I felt responsible and things had to be done to stay alive,” he said. “Falling into the water was distressing but I kept going as long as I could. I could not feel my feet very well and I knew I had to stop.”

painting of Ranger BissonetteThe Rangers began a medical assessment and were surprised at how well they had held up. They were shivering and were able to drink hot fluids the rangers brought in a thermos. Their feet were a problem. There was frostbite and they were not well protected beyond the backpacks they were standing in. Walking was not an option even as the rangers fashioned makeshift mukluks from various insulating items they had with them. They needed the helicopter to come back and pick them up. The Rangers tied improvised harnesses onto the boys and one by one, Ranger Bissonette picked up all four of them by hoist and pulled them back into the helicopter. He slid the door closed and they flew directly to Saranac Lake Hospital for treatment.

Dr. Ed Hixson was there waiting for them. He had treated numerous hypothermia and frost bite victims over the years. He found their core temperature to be around 96 degrees, astonishingly high. Some rewarming had occurred in the field, but the time from being found by the rangers and arriving at the hospital was only about an hour.

The frostbite was more serious, especially for Boxer who froze every toe on both feet. Sygman had only minor frostbite on two toes. He would be released from the hospital the next day. Boxer remained there for a week or more. When speaking to the Lake Placid News at the time Dr. Hixson was uncertain if he would lose any of his toes. He did comment that taking their boots off given their remote location and extreme cold temperatures was a bad idea. “You can walk with your feet frozen in your boots,” the doctor explained. “Once you take them off, you’re trapped.”

Michael Boxer did keep all his toes. “They got real bad, black, cracked badly” he told me reflecting back on the experience all these decades later. “They took really good care of me at the hospital. Some of the nerves died, my feet were never quite the same. My toe nails are pretty ugly but it never slowed me. I stayed very physically active.”

Professionally, Michael Boxer became an accountant and his outdoor recreational interests eventually took him to the water where he competed at the highest levels nationally, including for a spot on the U.S. Kayaking Team.

There was one point of humor as he told me the story, at least it’s funny now. “My girlfriend was with me and she stayed back at camp. She left me for one of the guys who stayed behind with her while I went up the mountain.”

More bad luck.

Illustrations, from above: Mount Colden and Marcy during winter from a frozen Algonquin Peak; Forest Ranger Dave Ames (DEC photo); the same helicopter above Algonquin on a different mission (DEC photo); and Forest Ranger Bissonette by artist Kati Christoffel.

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Scott van Laer has been a forest ranger for 21 years and is currently a delegate for PBA of NYS, the union which represents forest rangers.

41 Responses

  1. Phil Brown says:

    Great storytelling, Scott. What are the lessons to be drawn?

    • Boreas says:


      Plan for the worst case scenario – being stranded for a day or two.

      I remember this particular event, as I climbed ‘Gonk later the same winter under similar conditions. We camped at the col between Algonquin and Wright, making the summit climb – at a sunny -30 degrees – short and sweet. Even using the base camp close to the summit, we took sleeping bags, ensolite pads and SNOWSHOES to the summit.

      The only bad luck I encountered was on the hike up to the base camp the previous day. Upon arriving at the col, I became weak and unable to put up my tent by myself. Luckily the other 3 in the group helped me finish erecting my tent, got me some warm hot chocolate, and let me rest in my bag. I felt totally fine about 45 minutes later, although a little woozy. Although it was -20, it wasn’t a problem with the cold. It was some physiological problem I have/had – likely dehydration and exhaustion (heavy packs, dry air). I also was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 10 years later, so it may have been unrecognized symptoms of low blood sugar.

      It was an interesting but scary ailment that hit me two more times over the years. The next episode was during a 50 mile bike ride on a hot day in the Finger Lakes (HILLS!) a year later – almost certainly dehydration. A sit in the shade and re-hydrating brought me back in less than an hour and I continued just fine. The last episode was in a few years later when climbing Coughs on a hot, humid day. We had a tough time navigating the (at that time) terrible Panther herd path early in the day, and were sweating profusely. After a short stay at Times Square, we went on to Coughs and on the return, I essentially collapsed about 0.1 mile from Times Square. Same symptoms as before – just couldn’t go on. After relaxing and re-hydrating/snacking, my companion and I moved up to Times Square. Because of our longer than expected day, we only had about an hour of light left and little water left. We decided to camp there since we had humped out sleeping bags and tarps despite the warm, humid weather. Perhaps humping the extra gear was my downfall – who knows? But I survived to enjoy my first summit dawn on Santanoni – looking down on a sea of fog with a few peaks poking through. It was almost worth all the trouble.

      When writing about the incident to Grace later, she mentioned some accounts of this condition over the years which the old timers called “green sickness”. I assume it was named such because it happened to new or poorly conditioned hikers. Don’t really know.

      • Boreas says:

        And yes, we were aware it was illegal to camp near Times Square. We felt it was better than a long hike out in the dark (only crummy flashlights in those days) with a possible medical problem. I didn’t think Pete would chastise us too much if we got caught.

        • Tim says:

          And how about camping at the col between Wright and Algonquin?

          • Boreas says:


            • Tim says:

              DEC website: “ Camping is prohibited above an elevation of 4,000 feet in the Adirondacks (except in an emergency).” I couldn’t find anything about winter exceptions.

              • Boreas says:


                This was 40 years ago. It was an exception then.

                • scott van Laer says:


                  • Tim says:

                    I stand corrected!

                    • Boreas says:


                      To complicate matters more, I believe there are now 2 different 4000′ rules – one for the HPW and another for the rest of the Park. Perhaps Scott or someone could clarify this. At one time there were also exceptions for designated camping areas, but I think they have all been eliminated.

                      I believe at the time our campsite was a designated camping area. As I recall, the yellow “tent” circle was about 3 feet up on the tree, meaning there was plenty of snow! It was a clearing around the Wright/Gonk trail junction. But that is looking back through a 40-year fog…

  2. Christopher N Santa says:

    Excellent Story, Scott, you have a career as a journalist when you hang up your badge and gun. 🙂

  3. NoTrace says:

    We live in a world where most of our choices and decisions don’t have life-or-death consequences; winter mountaineering isn’t one of them (I know that full well, having had severe frostbite on a big toe from a college outing up the Eagle Slide during a blizzard in February, 1976). We thawed out at the Spread Eagle Inn (now the Ausable Inn) and at Pete Fish’s house afterwards, but no DEC rescue was needed. Similarly, my feet had gotten wet as we bushwhacked up Roaring Brook to the slide, and back, and we stupidly did not bring snowshoes even though there was copious amounts of fresh snow on the ground.

    I have been wondering if the young man of the couple who was rescued on Algonquin a few years ago ending up saving all his fingers and toes?

  4. Ed Burke says:

    Great article.
    I initiated a group turn around about 100 yards from the summit of Algonquin in the early 90s. We were in clouds and wind and I noticed our tracks disappearing behind us and a distinct lack of ‘visual cairn activity’, couldn’t see any. Started doing the math about where 2 degrees of trail separation might lead us if we took the wrong route off the summit, where I had been several times. Friends had not but I got no pushback from the others who realized the situation. Fortunately, peak-bagging bravado had not reached its recent frothy heights.

  5. Randolph Franklin says:

    Three of us were winter camping over two nights then in the pass and saw the helicopter. I remember that, even though it was so cold, we could get water by stomping on the ice on a small stream. It was so cold that a candle flame didn’t melt the wax to the edge of the large candle, in my tent. When we got back to the loj, my car wouldn’t start and had to be towed into Lake Placid to be warmed up.

    I remember on another winter camping trip a year or two later trying to start a wood fire with our extra gas. Pour the gas on some wood, light it, then look at the untouched wood when the gas burnt out.

    Does anyone else remember the former McDonald’s at exit 29 (inside the A-frame)? Very welcome at the end of a winter camping trip from Tahawus.

    One of our group from then, who is with me now, just observed that 8am is not an early start.

    • NoTrace says:

      Yep – some of are almost as old as you, Randolph, and remember that McDonalds well. Surely you remember the Spread Eagle Inn in Keene Valley?

      • Suzanne says:

        Our bar of choice was the Spread, when the Auers owned it, and we spent many an evening playing pool with Hubie Dusharme, who always won. The cheeseburgers were the best! Followed by the gossip. Old Miss Brinton demanded breakfast at 6 P.M., and poor Holly tried to explain that breakfast was over. There was a small altercation, Miss Brinton demanding “I want eggs!”. My father said “Give the old lady an egg,” but I don’t recall how that worked out. We took my Aunt Maria there once–she removed her white gloves, cut the cheeseburger in quarters, and ate it with a fork. We loved June and Gene, Hank and Harry, and were always felt welcome when we returned to KV to open our house for the summer. Them wuz da good old daze. It’s still a nice place, but lacking in the funky charm it once had. If anyone still has a Spread Eagle t-shirt, I’d be interested in buying one.

        • James Edwin Close says:

          I don’t have a Spread Eagle T-shirt, but I think (?) I still have a Spread Eagle paper placemat that I have saved for decades…You can contact me on that if you like at

          • Suzanne says:

            Thanks anyhow, but I can’t wear a placemat. I have a turtle pin from the Elm Tree, where we occasionally disgraced ourselves, but my heart still belongs to the Spread. We took my husband’s cousin Chickie Donohue, a boy from Inwood, there, and he removed his dentures and placed them on the bar. Another friend (you know who you are, dude) decided to walk home from the Spread backwards with his eyes closed on the old Valley trail. One of my cousins leapt off the olympic ski jump in Keene, clutching a gallon jug of Gallo port. Amazingly, both survived intact. It was fun to be young and drunk in them thar good old daze.

    • scott van Laer says:

      Very neat to read a comment from someone who was there. Agree 8am is not as early of a start as it could be.

  6. Vanessa says:

    Hi Ranger Van Laer,

    Great article! Full of valuable info from which we can all learn. Insofar as you have other “epic tales” that the protagonists of said tales are comfortable having published online – you should write more!

    As the kids say, I really stan your twitter feed 😀 (but I am a millennial and not gen z, so who knows if that’s the correct use of the term, lol)

    I believe you’re a very cool ambassador for the region, and I hope you’re not bothered by the tediousness of social media interactions. The knowledge shared could really help folks be safe in winter. I remember a couple of very young kids heli-vaced off of Algonquin a couple of years ago. Not a good day for anyone when a winter rescue is needed 🙁

  7. Randolph Franklin says:

    Other memories from that trip, acknowledging that it being 40 years ago, things might get fuzzy. However it was a memorable freeze trip.

    Someone told me at the time that the kids on Algonquin lived because they kept moving all night long.

    At night when we camped, the only sound was the trees cracking from the cold.

    My companion was so miserable that she’s never winter camped since then.

    We disagree about who warmed whose feet on whose stomach.

    BTW I’m only 67 and haven’t even retired yet, just out of shape.

    I’d like to make a strong plea to publish lots of precise details about accidents and disasters, starting with a list of the victim’s equipment and clothing, including brand names for things like satellite beacons. The type of beacon that the Kate Matrosova on Madison used in Feb 2016 was IMO the reason it took so long to find her (altho she might have died anyway).

    Finally, does anyone remember the plane crash during a storm on Street/Nye around Christmas 1978 with 2 men, a dog, and allegedly a lot of cash, aboard? The dog walked out and was found, so the search was really intense. Didn’t find it until spring.

    Hi Scott. We’ve met several times at meetings and perhaps on a hike or 2.

    • NoTrace says:

      Ditto the 6-7!

    • scott van Laer says:

      Yes! That plane crash is not an article,,,its a book!

      • Suzanne says:

        I remember the plane crash on Wright. One of my ATIS kids wanted to bring back a piece of the wreckage so I put it in my pack basket and carried it down for him. I realised much later what a bad thing that was to do, but being a teenager, didn’t understand at the time.

    • Suzanne says:

      Tony Goodwin usually makes a report of the latest mistakes, accidents and disasters and publishes it in the ADK magazine. I am grateful that he said nothing about me and my group, because he said it was just too crazy to be helpful for anyone else. Perhaps I should write it up, our hike up Marcy, as the stupidest thing I ever did, but it’s pretty embarrassing.

      • NoTrace says:

        I can guarantee that anything you write up will be instructional, even if you don’t think it is. It may be crazy to you, but most accidents that happen are a culmination of stupid, sometimes even minor choices and decisions that, aggregated, ratchet up to very bad things happening at the end of the day – but you knew that already 🙂

        I have the misfortune of having already been written up by Tony…I’ll leave it at that 🙂

        • Suzanne says:

          Believe me, this would not be instructional. My husband wanted to climb Marcy on the 4th of July, 1978, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t have an accident, fortunately, but our first mistake was deciding to have breakfast at the Noonmark Diner instead of at home, where we’d have to waste time washing dishes. Who knew it would take 20 minutes to get a box of corn flakes, and another 20 minutes more to get the milk to wash the corn flakes down? Things spirelled down from there, and it was nine by the time we finally hit the trail. My husband was an amputee and hiked on crutches. I’d taped his hands so He was fine, but another friend who came with us had polio as a child and, as I later discovered, had several steel pins in his leg. He also smoked three packs of Marlboros a day, and tramped along with a cigarette dangling from his lip. A woman in our group was overweight and really slow, requiring frequent breaks. (We hadn’t wanted her to come, but she insisted so I simply gave up.) I told everybody that if we weren’t on top by 3 PM at the latest, we were turning back. My husband agreed, but the rest of our motley crew urged him to continue on. By then his hands were bleeding inspite of the tape. By 3:30 we were there, took a few pictures and then headed down. A beautiful doe stood in the path in front of us. Everyone said, “Awww” and I heard myself saying “Well, are we going to stand here forever staring at this animal? Get moving!” It was dark by the time we arrived at Marcy Dam. We had warm clothes and enough food for the night, but the leantos were filled up and the ranger gave me a harsh talking to –“You! A Forty-sixer! And you’re wearing sneakers!” He called Gary Hodgson, who had been out in the field watching the fireworks, and he loaded us all in the back of his truck and drove us back to the Loj and our car. We went to MyJo’s, ate everything we could get and were home by midnight. To paraphrase Coleridge, “A sadder and a wiser man, we rose the morrow morn.” I spent four seasons hiking in Nepal, once as a trek leader, but our Marcy expedition was by far the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. If any thing I learned, it is to trust one’s instinct and not allow oneself to be bullied by others when you know what needs to be done.

    • Steve B. says:

      Good article Scott.

      Randolph wrote “The type of beacon that the Kate Matrosova on Madison used in Feb 2016 was IMO the reason it took so long to find her (altho she might have died anyway).”

      I recall reading that Kate’s particular beacon was not rated for the temperatures she encountered, thus might have been the reason it thru false positions. That in turn led the initial search party to the wrong location that night. With a better beacon they possibly might have found her, but nobody ever speculated as to that. As well she had no bivy gear at all and was likely injured from a fall due to high winds.

      • Randolph Franklin says:

        The various newspaper stories said that the beacon failed because of the low temp but didn’t go into details. The excellent little book

        Where You’ll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova by Ty Gagne and T.B.R. Walsh

        available on Amazon has a lot more info including her packing list. This is from memory, but she had one of the older pre-GPS ones. That technology is so powerful that it works from the bottom of a slot canyon. However it’s low resolution. It transmits a signal with id only that is received by a satellite. Then a 2nd satellite or plane is required to locate the transmission more precisely. That part didn’t go well because the weather prevented the optimal airplane flight. Also, something funny was happening with the precise position, perhaps because of the temp.

        In any case, perhaps one of the newer GPS models that transmitted the location might have helped. Also, she was carrying two cellphones, but didn’t use either. Perhaps they were frozen or her fingers were too frozen or the touch screens didn’t work because they were cold and wet.

        I’ve had this problem with a Garmin GPS60 with touch screen in the winter. Funny that the company would overlook the problem of using it in the winter. The newer little inReach, which I have and love, has no touch screen, just real buttons.

        Maybe a few pounds of emergency gear like sack and pad would have saved her? I’ve tested using a large space blanket and foam pad when lying on the ice in the middle of a lake in the wind. Works quite well. Got some odd looks from the others in the group.

        I’ve also been above treeline on Madison in winter whiteouts, pre-GPS in the 1970s, following the trail from cairn to cairn, and camping near the closed hut. Never felt endangered.

        • Steve B. says:

          As well there was a question as to had she been injured from a fall due to the high winds. That was the question from where they located the body. Possibly no add’l gear would have helped if she was too badly hurt to make use of it.

          A reminder that likely the key piece of survival gear is to have gotten an accurate weather forecast before setting out. Applicable everywhere.

          • NoTrace says:

            According to the excellent article on this tragedy in Appalachia a few years ago, the forecast was accurate and called for dropping temps and high winds; she apparently thought she could run it out and off the range before that happened – which she didn’t. Also, the article stresses the inaccuracy of beacons in vertical terrain; that goes to the nature of GPS itself, which “maps” distances, etc assuming a flat surface. Not sure those technical problems have been corrected since then, but I imagine it’s being tackled if it hasn’t.

    • geogymn says:

      I was part of the search for that plane crash. As it turned out my group got real close before turning around due to time constraints (some were prepared for an overnight stay others were not).
      I had a chat or two with a woman who was associated with one of the guys on the plane. If memory serves, the plane was white with green trim which made it hard to spot from the air as it plowed through some snow covered Balsam trees when it hit the mountain.
      There were rumors (later to be proved wrong) that the plane was filled with cocaine. There was also rumors that there was some unscrupulous adventurers who went searching with empty back packs.

  8. Wade Bittle says:

    After reading this recount of a search and rescue I was reminded once again of the amazing talent and grit of our rangers. It is no small feat of courage and skill to find and rescue people in such incredibly adverse conditions, conditions where the rangers themselves are at risk of death from any mishap. I salute the men and women that choose this vocation of service to us who love and enjoy the backcountry of these mountains. I always try to be as prepared as possible for any event and watch the conditions closely before venturing out. However, even fully prepared, unexpected mishaps and health conditions do occur and it is very comforting to know that these rangers have our backs. Countless unfortunate hikers would not be around today if not for this service. With increasing numbers of people enjoying the wilderness now is the time to increase funding for the rangers to keep everyone safe … just in case.

  9. Bob Eckert says:

    Well written, Scott! I find myself wondering, what might the outcome have been, if they had a map and compass I knew how to use it? I never on a Highpeak in the winter time without being aware of the bearing I am following above tree line. And not with a GPS!

  10. Bob Eckert says:

    Typos. Grr. “I find myself wondering what might have happened if they had a map and compass AND knew how to use them.” “*I am* Never in the high peaks…”

  11. James Close says:

    I read this when you originally posted it, but it’s worth re-visiting. Good story, Scott, especially in light of the rescue you did a few years ago on Algonquin.

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