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Rescued N.H. Hiker Made ‘Poor Choices’ amid Intense Winter Conditions and 90 MPH Winds, Officials Say

The hiker "did not have proper gear, equipment, weather planning and or proper critical decisions in order to keep himself out of harm’s way," authorities said

<p>Getty</p> Mount Washington

Getty

Mount Washington

Officials in New Hampshire say a hiker made "numerous poor decisions" and "placed 11 other lives in danger" when he was rescued from Mount Washington amid extreme winter weather on Saturday.

The N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division said in a press release shared on Facebook that the hiker, identified as 22-year-old Cole Matthes of Portsmouth, was hiking in the Ammonusuc Ravine on the western side of the mountain when he fell and became injured. The incident occurred at approximately 11:50 a.m. local time.

"After the fall, Matthes called 911 and requested help," the N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division shared in their statement. "Due to poor reception, very little information could be obtained other than he had an injury and needed help."

Matthes' coordinates, obtained from his 911 call, placed him "off trail in a drainage ravine west of Westside Trail and north of Crawford Path at approximately 4,500 feet in elevation."

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Through coordinating Conservation Officers on the Advanced Search and Rescue Team, the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team and the Mountain Rescue Service, authorities piloted a "special train" via the famous Cog Railway that normally takes tourists to the mountain's summit.

The decision was then made to utilize two trains. One was retrofitted with a snow blower on the front to break up the high level of snow present on the mountain, and the other would transport a second crew of rescuers once the first had cleared a path.

Amid that rescue attempt, Matthes managed to get another call through to 911, but operators were unable to discern what he was saying, the agency shared. A third call from the hiker afterward confirmed to authorities that Matthes was no longer at the location he had originally transmitted from, having managed to hike to the Lakes in the Clouds Hut emergency shelter.

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"Conditions on Mt. Washington were sustained winds at 90+ MPH, a wind-chill of -52 F and an ambient temperature of -9 F," the N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division said. "These conditions do not allow for exposed skin and require proper gear and experience to survive in."

When rescuers rendezvoused with the stranded hiker at the Lakes in the Clouds Hut at 6:17 p.m., they found that "Matthes was not injured but suffering from hypothermia and was wearing many layers of frozen clothes." A Twin Mountain Ambulance also treated Matthes for frostbite.

"After multiple recommendations that he go the hospital Matthes refused treatment and 'signed off' that he did not want to be treated," the agency said. "Matthes was released from the ambulance and brought to his vehicle at 11:38 PM."

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The N.H. Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division then called out Matthes for making "poor choices" by choosing to hike Mount Washington in the winter.

"Matthes made numerous poor decisions in regards to the hike that he planned in the White Mountains," the agency wrote. "Matthes did not have proper gear, equipment, weather planning and or proper critical decisions in order to keep himself out of harm’s way and moving in the right direction on a dangerous mountain range. Matthes saw other groups turn around and say, 'The weather isn’t worth it.' But he decided to keep going."

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Authorities further claimed that Matthes put himself "in a situation that placed 11 other lives in danger in order to save his."

"Even though the rescuers complete these heroic tasks with humility and passion there is still never ending concern as to why inexperienced solo hikers continue to push on. If it was not for the willingness and timeliness of The Cog Railway, the rescuers, and others, Matthes would have undoubtedly died on the mountain," the department added.

"The list of people who have died on the Presidential Range will stay at 173 for now thanks to the rescue effort that saved Cole Matthes’ life on Saturday February 17, 2024," the agency's statement concluded.

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