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Close Call for Mt. Washington Hikers Is Reminder to Hike Safely this Autumn

September 22, 2006

Concord, New Hampshire - The recent rescue of four unprepared hikers from the summit of Mt. Washington is a sobering reminder of the importance of refreshing yourself on safe hiking principles before heading out on the trail this time of year. Dressed only for summer temperatures, and setting out late in the day for a difficult hike, these hikers were unprepared for the winter conditions they encountered at the higher altitudes of the summit. Their second mistake: they failed to turn back when they ran into trouble. One of the hikers remains hospitalized in serious condition suffering from severe hypothermia. The hikers, who are from Canada, found some shelter when they broke into one of the summit buildings. "Hikers, especially on Mt. Washington, should never count on buildings being open to provide a safe haven - or assume that staff will be around to help you get back down," said New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Lt. Todd Bogardus, who coordinates the hikeSafe initiative.

"It's a beautiful time of year to hike in New Hampshire, with crisp air, colorful foliage and glimpses of wildlife preparing for winter," said Bogardus. "But hikers must be equipped with gear and extra warm clothing this time of year. You should be prepared for winter-like conditions, such as snow, high winds, rain and exposure to extreme weather at the higher summits."

Bogardus also cautions that because the days are growing shorter, night can fall quickly. Hikers should prepare for being caught out after dark -- carry a flashlight or headlamp, even if you're not planning to stay out late. Also, rime ice at higher altitudes can obscure signs, so hikers should be equipped with a map and compass and know how to use them. Hunting seasons are already underway in New Hampshire, so it's a good idea to wear bright colors such as red or orange when out on the trails. Watch your step, because wet autumn leaves can be very slick, and when on the trail, always stay together as a group. Before you head out, be sure to tell someone where you're going and how long you'll be gone.

"The weather is extremely unpredictable this time of year, so we encourage people to be prepared with the right knowledge and gear to have a fun time, safely. If you do experience unexpected conditions that affect your hike, like fatigue or weather changes, be responsible and turn back -- the mountains will be there another day," says Bogardus. He recommends carrying the "Ten Essentials" on every trip: map and compass, warm clothing (including hat and mittens), extra food and water, flashlight or headlamp, matches/firestarters, first aid kit, whistle, rain/wind gear and a pocket knife.

As you plan your fall hiking, visit www.hikesafe.com for more safe hiking tips, plus links to websites like the Mt. Washington Observatory for weather updates and other information to help plan your trip. Enjoy the fall, review the hiker responsibility code, and hikeSafe!

Hiker Responsibility Code

You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:

With knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.

To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you'll return and your emergency plans.

To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.

To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.

For emergencies, even if you are headed out for just an hour. An injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don't assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.

To share the hiker code with others.

HikeSafe -- There and Back -- It's Your Responsibility!

The hikeSafe educational initiative is a result of a partnership between New Hampshire Fish and Game and White Mountain National Forest. It was designed to help reduce the numbers of search and rescue incidents and emergencies by educating outdoor users on proper preparation.

For more information about hikeSafe, visit www.hikesafe.com


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