Published DateBy Erik Eisele
CONWAY — Another weekend, another string of rescues in the mountains surrounding the Mount Washington Valley.
Weekend after weekend recently, Fish and Game Department conservation officers have spent hours responding to injuries and lost hikers. This most recent weekend was no different.
On Saturday firefighters from Bartlett, Jackson and North Conway joined conservation officers and volunteers from Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, Bartlett-Jackson Ambulance personnel, members of the Appalachian Mountain Club and a U.S. Forest Service ranger in rescuing a Jackson man injured on Crawford Mountain in Hart's Location, according to a Fish and Game statement. The call came in at 4:35 p.m. after Robert White fell down and injured his leg while hiking the Davis Path. It took the team until 9:47 p.m. to get White to the road. He was then transported to Memorial Hospital in North Conway.
Before that rescue was over officers learned of two women lost in Bartlett, Kristine Curtis of Boston, Mass., and Anne Cullen of Cambridge, Mass. The women had hiked to the summit of Mount Stanton, but a wrong turn and lost the trail near Mount Pickering. They called 911 at 6:20 p.m.
Two conservation officers began searching right away, the statement said, and two more joined the search after the Mount Crawford rescue ended. They spent all night searching, using information from the women's cell phone signal to determine a general search area. "The women were located heading toward the Rocky Branch Shelter about 9:30 a.m. the next morning," according to the statement, by conservation officer Mark Hensel and his search dog Sig. "He had made cell phone contact with them early on Sunday as the sun came up and told them to continue hiking down the brook drainage. About an hour and a half later, Hensel was able to get a GPS lock on them and hiked in to help them to safety."
The women were without lights and not prepared for an overnight, but the weather was mild for late October and they were unharmed. "Had the conditions been colder," Hensel said, "they would have been in jeopardy."
Two other female hikers were reported lost on the Blueberry Ledge Trail in Tamworth that evening. "After getting a late start, Elizabeth Wilson, of Laconia, and Kathleen Hall, of Newmarket, hiked to the summit of Whiteface and had started hiking down when they were overcome by darkness," according the statement. They called for help at 7:00 p.m., and conservation officers were able use their cell phone signal to determine their location. Officers hiked about a mile in to find the women. They were back at the trailhead by 9:30 p.m. Again, the hikers did not have any lights with them, the Fish and Game statement said.
Around the same time that evening an anxious husband called to report that his wife was overdue. "William King, of Meredith, said his wife Cynthia had left with her dog to hike on Sunday," the statement said. "When she did not return, he called for help about 6 p.m."
Local law enforcement checked trailheads in the area, and at about 8:30 p.m. conservation officers searching for the hikers on the Blueberry Ledge Trail discovered King's vehicle at Ferncroft.
"Search teams looked for King through the night," the Fish and Game statement said, and "on Monday morning about 6:30 a.m. she was located by a New England K-9 Search and Rescue team. She had hiked to the top of Mt. Katherine and lost her way when she followed a skid trail on the way down. She was in good condition despite her unexpected night in the woods."
The four incidents had officials expressing disappointment in the level of preparedness the hikers exhibited.
"In many of the searches this weekend and the past several weekends, the hikers were completely unprepared for any unforeseen circumstances," conservation officer Hensel said. "We are grateful that these searches ended successfully, but those going out to enjoy the outdoors must be aware that shortened daylight and colder temperatures can quickly make a situation life threatening. Please be responsible."