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View Full Version : Heroic rescue on Franconia Ridge - Sept 19, 2012



dentonfabrics
09-19-2012, 11:13 AM
This is one helluva story....


http://www.wildnh.com/Newsroom/News_2012/Q3/sr_Franconia_carryout_091912.html

CONCORD, N.H. -- Heroic efforts by search teams working through the night, enduring high winds and torrential downpours, rescued an injured Michigan hiker stranded on the Franconia Ridge Trail in New Hampshire's White Mountains on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.


EDITED: Please post links to the original source, copying only one paragraph max... Tim

sardog1
09-19-2012, 11:17 AM
Good job, all! Sounds like it was one hell of an evac.

Kevin Rooney
09-19-2012, 11:42 AM
This is one helluva story....

Couldn't agree more. Kudos to AMC staff, NH F&G, and the Pemi SAR.

TDawg
09-19-2012, 12:35 PM
My, my, MY. Heroic, indeed! Kudos to all involved.

Was thinking that yesterday was not the day to be out anywhere. Gloomy, raining hard, and the worst was to come overnight if anything were to go wrong.

Puck
09-19-2012, 12:42 PM
Wow! One can do everything right and things can still turn out bad.

JacobH
09-19-2012, 12:50 PM
Nice job to all involved! Sounds like an epic rescue.

I wonder though, if FWT is recommended for ascent, does that mean OBP is recommended for descent? I think OBP is far more dangerous for descent, especially the parts on the ridge where the rocks are sharp and the terrain is steep. FWT really doesn't have that at any point. I'm not downplaying the severity or intensity of the rescue because there are certainly steep parts and 5 river crossings to deal with on the way.

I mean, how does one get down off the ridge if all the routes are only recommended for ascent? :D

Dave Bear
09-19-2012, 01:17 PM
Awesome that they got him down and that he was able to crawl for a signal with a bad injury! Well done on his part and all involved. After the incident with "Fred" Lawrence and James Osborne in that same area I pondered the same question as Jacob. In a fierce storm retreating into the wind leaves you heavily exposed to weather coming at you from the West and Northwest coming down either one in winter or winter-like conditions could be life threatening or at the least life altering. At one point I actually did a bushwhack off the col between Liberty and Little Haystack to see if it was a viable spot to weather a fierce storm. My finding is that it was and could be used. Not a solution in this guys case with such an injury. Isn't the photofor the page of the website that portion of the ridge run? South side of Lincoln?

Driver8
09-19-2012, 01:20 PM
Nice job to all involved! Sounds like an epic rescue.

I wonder though, if FWT is recommended for ascent, does that mean OBP is recommended for descent? I think OBP is far more dangerous for descent, especially the parts on the ridge where the rocks are sharp and the terrain is steep. FWT really doesn't have that at any point. I'm not downplaying the severity or intensity of the rescue because there are certainly steep parts and 5 river crossings to deal with on the way.

I mean, how does one get down off the ridge if all the routes are only recommended for ascent? :D

The trail guides I've read - WMG and 4000-Footers book - say FWT up and down OPB is standard. Either one would be perilous here. Seems the judgment they made was to get off the ridge onto its western shoulder asap - he was injured between Little Haystack and Lincoln, in the Gargoyles would be my guess - and out of the prevailing southeasterlies - here's the NWS's summary of the Mt. Washington station's hourly report of conditions http://w1.weather.gov/obhistory/KMWN.html. The fords and the wet, ledgy scrambles down would've been perilous without question. This was truly an heroic effort.

One thing that nags at me was whether this man should've turned around in the first place once he got onto the ridge. Presumably, given that he was going a five day loop of the Franconia Notch, he started at Liberty Spring. The weather reports from MWO indicate that the winds were high all morning at altitude and, at the latest, he would've felt the force of this once he got to the FRT. I hate to say it, but it was probably foolhardy on his part to persist then rather than to turn back. A mistake he'll likely not repeat!

nartreb
09-19-2012, 02:02 PM
"the Falling Waters Trail, a route normally recommended only for ascending the mountain because of its steepness."

That's an exaggeration, but I don't agree with JacobH. FWT has a couple of spots where high water would be a problem, and a short section with enough exposure that I'd not enjoy carrying an injured hiker. Overall, FWT is steeper, rougher, and narrower than OBP. The Old Bridle Path used to be... well guess. When I do the loop I almost always go up FWT and down OBP.

Even without the weather, going up over Lincoln and Lafayette to get to OBP would not be worth the effort, though. If somebody was injured near the top of the flume slide trail and I had a litter but no rope, I'd probably carry them to Liberty Spring trail, but FWT is no flume slide trail.

peakbagger
09-19-2012, 02:36 PM
I had done a posting on Whiteblaze regarding the potential bad weather that day. In the AM the sun was out in Gorham and the summits were clear with only a few high clouds, it wasnt until mid to late morning that things darkened up and it was spitting rain but the summits were still visible albeit with a wall of dark clouds and wind coming from the west. Not knowing where he started or intended to end, it might have been one of those days where he elected to keep going in hopes of getting below treeline. If he was going south along the ridge, heading down to Greenleaf might have been just as daunting as staying on the ridge as he would have walking right into wind. Generally on any hike of the loop the section of OBP just below the Lafayette summit is always the windiest and it noticable that once I get over the summit that the ridgeline is less intense but with 80 MPH gusts its all relative.

By the way, I vastly prefer going up OBP and down FWT for a day hike . FWT offers a quick exit to below treeline while the descent off the ridge via OBP is far more exposed for a longer period. To each ther own.

mtnpa
09-19-2012, 04:22 PM
I mean, how does one get down off the ridge if all the routes are only recommended for ascent? :D

Given the deteriorating weather conditions crossing the ridge over Lincoln and Lafayette summits would not be a good choice.
Heading for Falling Waters got everyone off the exposed ridge much sooner.
The real obstacle on Falling Waters would be high water levels at crossings.
Normally when carrying a litter down from the AMC hut the Greenleaf Trail is used.

Peaks
09-19-2012, 05:47 PM
This is the first time that I have heard the Falling Waters Trail being recommended for ascent. And there are plenty of people that hike the loop clockwise as well as counter clockwise. While volunteering up on the Ridge, I've been asked about which trail is easier for descent. My reply is that both trails (Falling Waters and Old Bridle Path) have their challenges.

bikehikeskifish
09-19-2012, 06:26 PM
p. 163, AMC WMG 27th ed, Falling Waters Trail

...It is steep and rough in parts and better for ascent than descent, but not normally dangerous unless there is ice on the ledgy sections near the brook.

Tim

Maddy
09-19-2012, 06:55 PM
I will always remember crossing FR and being told by each and every person who we chatted with that we should not go down FW. It was too dangerous. :eek: I am not in love with drop offs on either side of me, and I was really shaken up at the thought of having to descend via this treacherous trail. Soon after we started down, the small scrub trees appeared and I sooo happy. :D It was a steep but IMHO not scary descent. We lost the trail several times but had no difficulty finding it at the crossings. This being said, if I did it again I would do it in reverse.

This was an amazing rescue. Job well done! :cool:

Neil
09-19-2012, 07:38 PM
Amazing rescue! What an effort.

I wonder how things would have panned out had the victim deployed a spot device's SOS function.

Driver8
09-20-2012, 01:41 AM
The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains, p. 381: "The steep but scenic Falling Waters Trail provides the shortest access to Mt. Lincoln. ... caution is advised, especially descending, on wet ledges in the area of the waterfalls."

Personally, having ascended Lafayette on an OBP-Greenleaf there-and-back in May and then having gone up FW on the loop in the reverse direction earlier this month, I'd say that most of the time either way would be fine, at least in the warm half of the year. Several hikers I encountered on both hikes talked about preferring one way over the other. I will probably do clockwise next time to get a different perspective on the ridge. And I expect there will be several next times, as it is such a beaut of a hike.

Mark
09-20-2012, 09:03 AM
I'm a little surprised that AMC sent out a single rescuer from Greenleaf Hut. Granted, the hut croo often display super-human talents, carrying huge loads up and down from the hut.

Glad everything turned out OK. Great work by the rescuers!

Kevin Rooney
09-20-2012, 09:28 AM
I'm a little surprised that AMC sent out a single rescuer from Greenleaf Hut. How many staff does Greenleaf have on duty at any given time? 2? 3? Croo also have an obligation to guests staying at the hut, so that has to be factored in as well. Initially one went out, was turned back, and then two went out. Personally, I think it would be damn risky for one person to attempt such a mission given the incoming weather.

The Manchester UL reported that Jackson got 4+" rain, and Pinkham 5+" on Tuesday night. That's alot of rain in a short period, and if Franconia Ridge got anywhere near that it would make the multiple brook crossings on FW much more difficult.

Again - kudos to all involved.

Stan
09-20-2012, 10:36 AM
Risky and hard work but all in a days work for rescuers who are trained, fit and dedicated. As the saying goes in the Coast Guard, "You have to go out but you don't have to come back." Knowledge, preparation and judgement pays off on sea and on land.

FWIW, we descended Falling Waters Trail on our loop, despite the advice of the Guide, for various reasons which made sense at the time. I wouldn't encourage it but I can't really say it was any more dangerous than other steep trails we've been on which did not have such a warning.

bikehikeskifish
09-20-2012, 10:51 AM
I believe I have used FWT for:

-Ascent in October (descent via OBP), some rime / icing near the top
-Ascent/descent in December, in snowshoes (only bagged Lincoln)
-Descent on two subsequent winter loops, where ascended via OBP, also in snowshoes

It is steep and may require some caution and thought, but I didn't use it expecting a sidewalk.

I think both OBP and FWT are both more enjoyable for ascent, mainly because the views are better in that direction. I personally feel that up FWT and down OBP is the safer way to go, but I also believe one should enjoy this hike numerous times and try the loop at least once in each direction.

I have enjoyed a good buttslide down FWT in winter more than once :D

Tim

Kevin Rooney
09-20-2012, 12:37 PM
I've been up and down those trails dozens of times, and I think the WMG has it right - up FW, down OBP. Both have their moments, but on the whole, the got it right.

Much good trail maintenance on the FWT recently. I think it was done sometime between when I was there last (early Sept) and the previous time in mid-April. I believe that's the NH Parks jurisdiction.

JacobH
09-20-2012, 01:30 PM
Much good trail maintenance on the FWT recently. I think it was done sometime between when I was there last (early Sept) and the previous time in mid-April. I believe that's the NH Parks jurisdiction.

It's AMC. I've been out there a few times this year. I'm glad you like the improvements! The pro AMC crew did a lot of the work too, they put in a few new stepping stones, did some brushing in and repaired/installed a few water bars so I can't take all the credit! The pro crew is also responsible for the relocation of OBP between the parking area and the bridge, which was severely washed out from Irene.

Kevin Rooney
09-20-2012, 01:45 PM
It's AMC. I've been out there a few times this year. I'm glad you like the improvements! The pro AMC crew did a lot of the work too, they put in a few new stepping stones, did some brushing in and repaired/installed a few water bars so I can't take all the credit! The pro crew is also responsible for the relocation of OBP between the parking area and the bridge, which was severely washed out from Irene. Give yourself - and others - several Attaboys as it's obvious there was much effort expended, so thank you from someone who does that loop frequently. One small nit - in the mile or so it meanders along the brook it needs to be re-blazed. Despite the traffic, there are a few places where it's not at all obvious, and I noticed a few herd paths to nowhere. Once it makes the final brook crossing the treadway is obvious, but below that - not so in places.

Driver8
09-20-2012, 03:14 PM
Give yourself - and others - several Attaboys as it's obvious there was much effort expended, so thank you from someone who does that loop frequently. One small nit - in the mile or so it meanders along the brook it needs to be re-blazed. Despite the traffic, there are a few places where it's not at all obvious, and I noticed a few herd paths to nowhere. Once it makes the final brook crossing the treadway is obvious, but below that - not so in places.

I agree that it could be better blazed along the brook, especially above Cloudland, IIRC, and I have couple of add-ons:

1) It could use a blaze or two just south of the uppermost Dry Brook crossing. I didn't see any for quite a stretch there, and
2) there's a good-sized blowdown just uphill from the first big ford of Dry Brook down low. It's relatively negotiable, but it is a big tree right in the middle of the trail, at least it was as of 9/9. I noted it in a New England Trail Conditions report.

Otherwise, I agree. Outstanding trail, very well kept. Thanks for a job well done!

JacobH
09-20-2012, 03:15 PM
Give yourself - and others - several Attaboys as it's obvious there was much effort expended, so thank you from someone who does that loop frequently. One small nit - in the mile or so it meanders along the brook it needs to be re-blazed. Despite the traffic, there are a few places where it's not at all obvious, and I noticed a few herd paths to nowhere. Once it makes the final brook crossing the treadway is obvious, but below that - not so in places.

Oh yeah, totally. Blazing is definitely a priority. I'm waiting for some ground cover to see where it's easy to lose the trail. Next trip!

edit: Thanks for the heads up on the blowdown, Driver8. :)

weatherman
09-20-2012, 04:58 PM
Very, very well done to the rescuers, as well as to the victim who managed to get himself some help and (probably) save his own life by getting into his sleeping bag! I was watching this weather situation for a couple of days and it was very well advertised... BUT this guy was on day 3 of a 5 day trip, so it's doubtful there would have been information specific enough when he started,so he could have anticipated the rapid changes that basically turned a nice few days into a potentially life threatening storm in a 3-4 hour period.

LivesToHike
09-21-2012, 08:10 PM
My hat's off to all the rescuers involved in this recent rescue. I'm glad they got the hiker off the mountain, and no one else was injured in the process.

I think the call to use FWT was good one. I was up it twice this summer. In bad or good weather can be slippery, but the extra distance involved in going over to Lafayette and then down GT and OBP, to say nothing about avoidng further wind exposure, was worth it. Going over Lafayette in high winds is no picnic. Have done it driving snow, I can't imagine doing so in the dark on a carry-out.

Doing a carry out down OBP is no picnic either. Did one over a decade ago at night in good weather. The Agonies are rather, well, interesting, even with 6 people on a stokes litter, rotating with another 4. Thankfully, NHFG met us just some small distance below the Agonies and did the bulk of the hard work from there. They were great.

-- LivesToHike