Unprepared Hikers Frustrate NH Officials with 'Avoidable' Missions
After a recent pair of rescues in Lincoln, Fish and Game frustrations with unprepared hikers continue to rise.
Col. Kevin Jordan told NH1.com that a lot of effort goes into educating the public on hiking preparedness.
No matter how many press releases, advertisements and signs on the trails, the amount of unprepared hikers is still increasing.
"I'm not sure what more we can do," Jordan said.
Jordan said the number of Fish and Game Wardens that go out on search and rescue missions is a small one, especially compared to the abundance of unprepared hiker calls.
NH Fish and Game officers exhaust their resources sometimes like when they send their officers on multiple hikes a day.
This past weekend rescue officials responded to two different rescues on Mount Washington just hours apart.
The first rescue involved two hikers, Abby Finis and Julia Eagles, both 35 from Minnesota, who were not only unprepared for their hiking trail but altered their course from Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Huntington Ravine trail, which is notorious for being the most difficult trail in the White Mountains.
There is even a sign at the beginning of the trail warning hikers of its difficulty and telling hikers to seek alternate routes if they are unprepared or inexperienced. The two hikers saw the sign, ignored it and continued on. They then made the call to 911 after they were unable to handle the steep terrain, low temperatures and 40 mile per hour winds.
Hours later, Fish and Game received another call requesting a rescue. Arthur Stern, 77, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and Alice Rubenstein, 71, of Pittsford, New York, were exhausted and cold approximately a mile down from the summit of Mount Washington on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
When officials found the couple, the hikers were unprepared for the 50-60 mile per hour wind conditions, dressed in shorts and light hiking apparel and suffering from various stages of hypothermia. Rubenstein was in a serious hypothermic condition and required a carryout. Stern was initially able to walk but later required a litter carry out as well.
The amount of search and rescue missions is easily "avoidable," Jordan said.
Most of the people that need rescuing do not have the proper tools or clothing to be hiking in the first place.
They then will call for help. Emergency services will advise them on what to do until help comes, and occasionally, the hikers will just ignore the tips, Jordan said.
With each rescue, the cost of sending the team out to help can range from $500 to $40,000 but Jordan estimates the average is $2,000 to $2,500.
In severe cases, if a helicopter is needed, it is $6,000 an hour to use.
The New Hampshire National Guard does support NH Fish and Game frequently when it comes to rescues. Jordan said the National Guard usually will waive the costs of the rescues they participate in because they use them as "practice missions," but there is always the chance that Fish and Game will have to pay for the costly rescues.
In addition to the frustration of the irresponsible hikers that need rescuing, Fish and Game stresses overplanning for the avoidable mistake.
If you are planning a hiking trip make sure you have all the essentials here.
If you want to avoid paying a $40,000 tab for a rescue buy a voluntary hike safe card here.