Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Poster Child Speaks

Following up on the Poster Child for Negligent Hiking, the hiker has now spoken:

Hiker says he made a 'very bad decision'


BERLIN — The Cape Cod man who had to be rescued Tuesday on Mount Madison described his White Mountains hike as “the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life”

“I wasn't thinking. I really shouldn't have been there,” Mark Walsh, a 49-year-old unemployed welder, said in a telephone interview from his bed at Androscoggin Valley Hospital on Wednesday. He is recovering from dehydration.

Walsh said his decision to embark on a late-afternoon trek Monday in the Presidential Range with almost no equipment or provisions was “a very bad decision.” 

“I was seriously dehydrated,” he said. “The next step would be death. If not for Fish and Game and the other rescuers, I would've died. All credit goes to them. They're good guys. I was incoherent when they found me. They put coats and a hat on me, and forced fluids into me.”

The rescue team did avoid a carry-out, and led Walsh on a return hike that took the rest of the night. Walsh and his nine rescuers got back at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Fish and Game Sgt. Wayne Saunders has described Walsh's lack of preparation as “negligence” and is recommending to his superiors that they begin the process of having the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office seek reimbursement from the rescued man.

On Wednesday, the Sandwich, Mass., man acknowledged he'd been lulled into a casual attitude by his success with two recent, shorter, White Mountains hikes. 

He said he had heard a weather forecast that daytime temperatures Monday atop Mt. Washington would be in the 60s and dressed in summer clothing and rubber boots.

He also misfired on the estimate of how long the hike would take, and didn't set out until around 4 p.m. Monday. 

By the time searchers found him, well off the trail at 11 p.m., temperatures had dipped into the 30s.

Walsh said all he'd consumed that day was some Slim Fast, many hours earlier. He had little water with him, no food, no flashlight, and his upper-body clothing consisted of two T-shirts.

Once darkness fell and he lost sight of Pine Link Trail, events started going badly in rapid succession, he said.

“I did drink a lot of water before I started, but I thought the summit was a lot closer. I got very dehydrated. I was dizzy and disoriented. I started to lose my way, and lose my focus,” he said.

At 5:45 p.m., he used his cell phone to dial 911 and summon help. The emergency call was referred to Saunders at New Hampshire Fish and Game's Region 1 office in Lancaster.

From what he was told, Saunders decided rescuers might have to carry Walsh off the mountain. 

He assembled a nine-member crew, including Fish and Game officers, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team members and Appalachian Mountain Club rescuers.

Walsh said he barely made the call before his cell phone quit. That's when he really got scared, he said. Over the next five hours before the team found him, he said he could feel his strength ebbing, along with his ability to form clear thoughts. He said he felt his chances for survival fading.

On Tuesday, Saunders said Walsh was a hiker “who did everything wrong.”

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