This blog provides updates on avalanche incidents and other news that I hope will be of educational value to my avalanche safety course students. In the summer and fall I'll shift the focus a bit to SAR topics for my Mountain Travel & Rescue students. I'll also toss in some springtime beta on Presidentials ski conditions. (And of course I probably won't be able to resist the occasional Micayla snow-related picture...)
CONWAY — The lead Fish and Game officer on the rescue of a Massachusetts man lost on Mount Madison on Monday night said he'll be recommending the victim gets billed for the incident. "It doesn't seem to be in a gray area," Sgt. Wayne Saunders said, adding that the man's negligent actions led directly to his requiring a rescue. The victim, 49-year-old Mark Walsh of Sandwich, Mass., could hardly be categorized as a hiker, Saunders said, even though he was out for a hike. "Not at all," he said. "Normal hikers have hiking boots on, not galoshes." Walsh started hiking up Mount Madison on Monday afternoon with two T-shirts, a cell phone and little else. He did not eat or drink during his ascent, bring a flashlight or headlamp or carry extra layers, according to a Fish and Game statement. Walsh used his cell phone to call 911 at 5:45 p.m. to report he was experiencing medical issues and had lost the trail. It took 10 rescuers until 11 p.m. to find him. "He was probably 45 minutes off the main trail," Saunders said. It was hard for the team even to get to him through the gnarled trees. Saunders said he couldn't understand why Walsh would have left the trail in such difficult terrain. "I wish I could answer that," he said. "It just didn't make any sense." Fish and Game often uses cell phone signals to pinpoint a victim's location, Saunders said, but in this case the signal was only hitting one tower, making it impossible to use triangulation to determine Walsh's location. Had Walsh been unable to call out, he said, they never would have found him. The temperatures were hovering in the 30s and rain was on the way. "It could have gone bad really quick." The medical issues, meanwhile, seemed to stem from Walsh's lack of adequate food and hydration, Saunders said. After the team gave Walsh food and water, he was able to hike out on his own. It is highly unusual to have a victim this unprepared, Saunders said. Usually someone will go out wearing hiking boots, carry extra layers and have food and water but no light source, or they'll have a light but run out of water. "This is definitely the extreme."