We started our trek on the front-side of Mt. Washington, going thru Pinkham notch. The temperature leaving my house was a balmy 25, but as we rode into the mountains the temperatures steadily dropped. By the time we reached the backside of Mt. Washington in Crawford Notch, the temperature was a very cold 10 degrees and it was extremely windy, but still very clear. (Can you believe how good the zoom on my little sony camera is? That is the observatory on the top of the mountain!!)
Once out of the mountains and back into cell phone range, our afternoon took an unfortunate turn. I received a frantic call from my oldest daughter. It appeared that my middle daughter, Ashley's, boyfriend was lost somewhere on Mt Lafayette in Franconia Notch and had already spent one night alone up there. He had been hiking with 2 of his friends when they became separated in white out conditions at the summit. A search and rescue command post had been set up at the base, so I grabbed some stuff and headed right back into the mountains.
By the time I reached Franconia, it was getting darker and still windy, so they called off the search for the day...it was too windy for the Helicopter to go to the back of the mountain, where his friends though he was. I can not describe the feeling of despair we all felt, leaving the mountain, not knowing if Brian was alive and knowing that if he was he would have to spend another very cold night alone up there.
Brian is a VERY experienced winter hiker, who has completed some first responder courses thru an organization called SOLO. (I am going to post more tomorrow about these responders). Brian is also extremely levelheaded and very strong. We knew that he had good equipment with him...that combined with his physical and mental abilities gave us hope, but man o man, it had been bitterly cold with the 100 mph wind gales, which put the wind chill temps at -60.
The despair that we had felt when we left the mountain and all throughout the night, was replaced with encouragement when we returned to the mountain early in the morning. The outpouring of Search and Rescue responders was incredible. Brian's stepdad who is serving in Iraq with the National Guard and was able to make some contacts and a close family friend of ours who owns SOLO, along with the fabulous men of the NH Fish and Game Department kept in touch with us as to how the search was being organized and executed. Slowly thruout the morning we got little pieces of encouragement. His poles had been found and a little later,his water containers. We knew if nothing else, they were in the right area, now we were just praying that he would be found alive.
Shortly after noon, we got the word that he had been found and was ok. Absolutely amazing that this young man had not only survived 2 nights in the extreme weather conditions that were present, but came out with only a few spots of frostbite and very sore muscles from shivering. I can not say enough thank you's to the people who were praying for him and sending so much good karma in his directions and even more so to the men and woman who put their lives at risk to help find him. ~THANK~YOU!!!