By Erik Eisele
CONWAY — Rescuers pulled a 21-year-old Massachusetts man off the flanks of Mount Haystack on Thursday after a cold night out in the elements.
David Fielding, a Lyndon State College student from Wilmington, Mass., was found 200 feet below Haystack's summit at 12:30 p.m. Thursday following a search involving 10 Fish and Game conservation officers, volunteers from North Conway's elite Mountain Rescue Service and a National Guard helicopter, according to Fish and Game Sgt. Brian Suttmeier. The temperatures at the time were well below zero, according to the Mount Washington Observatory, and the wind chill was colder still.
Fielding was reported missing at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, Suttmeier said. He had gone out by himself despite a forecast predicting extreme cold and wind.
"He did make some mistakes," Suttmeier said, citing going alone and leaving the marked trail as likely errors.
Fielding was only able to survive the night because he had adequate gear for the conditions, Suttmeier said. "That's why he's still alive today."
Mountain Rescue Service, which is based in North Conway, sent a handful of team members to join in the search. Initial reports, according to Rick Wilcox, president of Mountain Rescue Service, were that Fielding had gone ice climbing. He reportedly intended to climb Lincoln's Throat, a long moderate gully up the face of Mount Lincoln, the sort of terrain only specially trained teams can access.
The route, a back-country climb requiring roughly nine miles of hiking, includes only a short section of technical terrain. One of the Mountain Rescue Service volunteers who went on the search had done a solo ascent of the route just a few days previous.
"It was a cold night last night to be out," Wilcox said.
The search began at first light. When Fielding was eventually found, Suttmeier said, he was very cold but otherwise did not appear to have any injuries. He was airlifted to Littleton Hospital for evaluation.