On Saturday, May 20 at about 8:00 pm, an emergency beacon was activated by a hiking party of three on the Phelps Trail, east of Little Marcy Mountain in the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness in the ton of Keene, Essex County, NY. Forest Rangers Foutch and Mecus started hiking in to find the subjects.
Three to four feet of snow combined with rainy conditions overnight significantly slowed the rescue. Rangers were unable to make phone contact with the hikers, but at 1 am, after six miles of hiking, Rangers located the subjects on the trail and treated them all for mild hypothermia.
The hikers were on a three-day trip, but had not checked the weather forecast and did not turn around when they encountered more snow than they were prepared for.
Ranger Robbi Mecus was among the first to reach them. She described the trail conditions for North Country Public Radio:
“The conditions on the trail were three to four feet of rotten snow and very, very wet,” Mecus told NCPR’s Emily Russell. “And the initial rescue party has to carry equipment to rescue those three people, so that’s a heavy pack, it’s not a daypack. And we have to go six miles in and above 4,000 feet in the rain without knowing exactly what we’re going to find. So there’s a fair amount of anticipation and stress that goes along with that. And then once you do make contact with those people, there’s the added stress of knowing that you now have the lives of three people that you’re responsible for, and you’re not anywhere close to safety. There’s no helicopter that can come and get you and the nearest available resources are hours and hours away.” You can hear more of the interview here.
The hikers and rescuers reached the Johns Brook Outpost at about 9 pm, where Rangers continued to warm the hikers before continuing to the trailhead. No further medical treatment was required. The rescue was finally complete at 12 p.m on Friday.
As Memorial Day Weekend approaches and more people head outdoors, hikers are encouraged to look at the weather and know their limitations before venturing outdoors.
Photo of group hiking out provided by DEC.