Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Boot prints lead 15 rangers to lost Mt. Marcy hiker whose clothes froze to his body

forest ranger reports graphicTown of North Elba
Essex County 
Wilderness Rescue: On March 22 at 9:45 p.m., Ray Brook Dispatch received a call from a woman reporting her 33-year-old son from New York City was overdue from hiking Mount Marcy and Gray and Skylight mountains. At 10:28 p.m., Forest Ranger Mecus located the subject’s vehicle at Adirondak Loj. Rangers Adams and Duchene attempted to retrace the subject’s itinerary, going up and over Mount Marcy and down to Four Corners. At 4:25 a.m., Ranger Mecus completed searching the trail and campsites to Lake Colden Outpost, before heading up to climb to Four Corners with Colden Caretaker Raudonis.

Ranger Evans served as Incident Commander at the Adirondak Loj. Due to the urgency of the snowstorm potentially hiding footprints or other clues to the hiker’s location, 15 Rangers were sent out early in the morning. Ranger crews were sent in from Elk Lake, Upper Works, the Garden Trailhead, and a larger team from the Adirondak Loj, to perform a grid search on the Mount Marcy summit cone. At 8 a.m., Ranger Mecus’ search crew located a single set of boot tracks near the Feldspar lean-to.

Mount Marcy

Mount Marcy rescue. NYS DEC photo.

faded boot prints in the snow

Faded boot prints that led Rangers to the Mount Marcy hiker. NYS DEC photo.

The crew followed the tracks up the Lake Arnold trail to where the tracks lost the trail and started following the north branch of the Opalescent Brook on the northwest face of Mount Marcy. At 10:10 a.m., they found the subject at 4,000 feet in elevation, with his clothes frozen to his body. Rangers used a patient care kit to change the hiker’s wet clothing, feed him, and provide warm liquids before walking him to the trailhead where they were met by Lake Placid EMS at 3:25 p.m. EMS took the subject to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia and frostbite. Resources were clear at 5:07 p.m.

Be sure to properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hike Smart NYAdirondack Backcountry Information, and Catskill Backcountry Information webpages for more information.

If a person needs a Forest Ranger, whether it’s for a search and rescue, to report a wildfire, or to report illegal activity on state lands and easements, they should call 833-NYS-RANGERS. If a person needs urgent assistance, they can call 911. To contact a Forest Ranger for information about a specific location, the DEC website has phone numbers for every Ranger listed by region.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.




22 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    Lucky man, thank you rangers!

    • Chris S says:

      Wow, that hiker was close to death but was saved by the Rangers immediate actions. Well done, Rangers! Thank-you for your bravery and skills.

  2. Boreas says:

    Excellent work under a time crunch!! Hopefully his exposure injuries were not too severe.

  3. JohnL says:

    That is one fortunate hiker and a large number of dedicated and otherwise thoroughly AWESOME rangers. Great job!

  4. Ruth Gais says:

    Another brave rescue by these dedicated and highly capable rangers. All praise to them but once again I am scratching my head at the irresponsible hiking of this man and many others. Why was he hiking alone and ill-prepared in late winter? I learned early on to hike in a group, bring adequate food and the means to survive in tough conditions. I could rant on and on – but will end with my thanks that this foolhardy expedition did not end in tragedy.

    • Boreas says:

      Ruth,

      Solo hiking is nothing new and will always be a thing. I used to do it, but usually out of necessity because I had very few climbing friends. In fact I finished my 46 on Grace Peak solo. If I was hiking in a group, 90% of the time it was just one companion. But I didn’t start hiking solo until I had significant experience.

      But before solo hiking came years of hunting with my father who not only was a lifetime hunter, he was a WW2 infantry veteran who fought his way across Normandy, Belgium, France, and Germany through some of the worst weather Europe had had in decades and with virtually non-existent winter gear – especially boots. So Dad’s hunting boots were always carefully waterproofed or rubberized. Always wore wool (wasn’t much else), carried extra socks and food, and a poncho/tarp. If I wanted to hunt, I had to do it his way. I learned more skills and first aid in Boy Scouts, along with learning not to chew tobacco. “Be prepared!” and all of that.

      These were generational skills that were passed on from harder times. People no longer have these skills driven into them at an early age because that generation is gone. Many people did not have proper outdoor training when young. They may read a book or some online “tips”, and perhaps read accounts of hikes that were all successful on social media. But having your “safety net” in your pocket that can summon help most anywhere does not instill self-reliance skills. And even WITH superb skills, unforeseen events can happen – especially if you are not paying attention to weather and constantly changing conditions. Humility and knowledge of when to turn around and save the goal for another day tends to get lost on many people today. Who wants to post THAT on social media??

  5. Jeanne says:

    Alone hiking in the High Peaks in winter….”What could happen”? The Rangers risk their lives and limb for a complete stranger hiker. Unprepared! It won’t be long the NYS Rangers will be charging for rescues. It’s time! We need more Rangers and its well overdue. This hiker owes his life to these heroic Rangers!
    People need to be prepared! After years of hiking in the High Peaks I can still see Ranger Pete Fish, testing my knowledge & checking my gear for a winter overnight trip. I was not alone. We welcomed his knowledge! Anything can happen…* are you prepared for the unexpected? He was NOT prepared!!

  6. Longplayer says:

    The FDA has recently approved a medicine for severe frostbite. I hope physicians in wintery climates are aware of it.

    https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-medication-treat-severe-frostbite

  7. Debbie says:

    Good work

  8. Eric says:

    As Red Forman would say “What were you thinking and don’t be such a dumbass!”

  9. Creekan says:

    This reminds me of the times I nearly got stuck in the dark, the times when I did, the times I was able to hike out in the dark, the times I hunkered down until daybreak, and sometimes all of the above.

    Good for the mom for triggering this successful rescue.

  10. Dulio J Hernandez says:

    Thank goodness for those rangers that found that guy because it could of been worse . But with the good training that they go threw to be a park ranger isn’t easy

  11. David says:

    Bravo to the Rangers who saved this man’s life!! Does anyone know how he’s doing, if he lost any body parts to the frostbite. I certainly hope not! Happy Easter to all!

  12. Justin Farrell says:

    So happy this has a happy ending, and another great job by the Rangers that were able to follow this guy’s footprints in the snow and most likely save his life. Which also begs the question, why couldn’t he just follow his own footprints back to the trail? The article doesn’t seem to make any mention of that.

    • Boreas says:

      Justin,

      It would be speculation in this case, but with the onset of hypothermia, thinking can get muddy and disorientation increases. The body is starting to shut down and it often starts at the brain.

  13. Reggie Archer says:

    Basically a miracle rescue, well done Rangers

  14. Paige Robinson says:

    There was a time when the young were courteous and eager to soak up and thoroughly process the words of their far more experienced neighbors, friend’s, and especially the advice and word’s of wisdom from senior relatives, parents, Grandparents, older Aunt’s & Uncles, but those days are long gone. Now the much younger, inexperienced generations of real world knowledge explorers are overly anxious to seek the answers to their deepest most important questions from posted queries to total strangers on-line, mindlessly entrust Google searches, keen to look for advice from TicTok videos, or they’d rather follow completely random Instructions from vague computer searches, which instantly provide countless suggestions, by a plethora of sources whose ultimate agenda’s are unknown, their answers and motivations remain unknown, their true honesty and level of dependably may be suspect at best, and the overall quality of their replies could quite easily and literally be designed to fail, most are sensationally unvetted for genuine truth, they share no level of certain reliability, these unknown sources with zero accountability don’t share even the most remote guarantee of success that one could definitely entrust 100 percent, in fact it’s really just a roll of the dice as to whether your search gifts you with a high quality, valuable, Rock solid answer or result. For this new generation that nearly always leans on total strangers in their search for answers, at least they can count on the possibility of learning from their many errors and fabulously painful mistakes, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    • Longplayer says:

      That’s one hell of a sentence in the middle of your paragraph. Are you a disciple of James Joyce? But otherwise, spot on! 8~)

  15. Theresa L Arita says:

    Thank you, you are all heros, including the hiker for enduring, mom for calling it in, and rangers and emts for persistent search and rescue. You saved a precious life. God bless you all.

  16. Geo Walker says:

    What a beautiful story! As a mother, I held my breath as I read, and rejoiced when I saw he had been rescued! Praise God!

  17. Bill Ott says:

    A longer version of this article appears in the New York Times on 11 April 2024; https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/11/nyregion/adirondacks-hiker-lost.html.

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