North Country
2:48 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Mount Washington Rescue: Hunkering Down Among The Rocks, Spooning And Hoping

Amid high winds and blowing snow, four people were rescued from above the treeline on Mount Washington before dawn Monday. But one rescuer said the group was lucky to get out a call for help.

"I think it would have been a bad outcome if they weren’t able to get the rescue call out,” Craig Taylor, a volunteer with the Mountain Rescue Service, told NHPR.

“Temperatures were expected to go below zero, winds were expected to ramp up to the triple digits that night. So, the forecast was really grim.”

The four hikers from Pennsylvania were part of a group of ten. They reached the top of Mount Washington just after noon on Sunday, according to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service.

However, during the descent they became separated from the group as the weather got worse. Then, they missed a turn.

The four - who were still above treeline  - called 911 and activated a SPOT rescue beacon, sending a signal to a satellite.

That scrambled rescuers from groups including the Mountain Rescue Service, New Hampshire Fish and Game and the Forest Service’s Snow Rangers.

“The conditions starting were zero degrees, blowing snow but not all the way to whiteout," Craig Taylor, a volunteer with the Mountain Rescue Service, told NHPR.

Fortunately the rescue beacon provided a general location, making it easier to locate them.

“The shelter they had was zero," said Taylor. "They really had no shelter, although they did find some rocks that they were able to scoop out snow and basically spoon. Spoon together.”

They were given warm drinks and food and were able to walk out with rescuers to New Hampshire State Parks' Sno-Cats for a trip down the Auto Road, reaching the bottom about 3:30 Monday morning.

The four were checked out at a local hospital. They were from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.

They were identified as Wayne Ebling 59, from Cressona PA; Rhea Mitchell, 22 from Danville PA; Andrew Snyder, 22 from York PA; and Kelly Sloan, 33 from Bloomsburg PA.

Guidelines for hiking safely say groups should never split up.