View Full Version : Unplanned Night in the Presidentials

09-02-2005, 01:52 PM
Fortunately everyone is OK but this could have turned out very badly.

[quote]New Jersey family spends wet night in Presidentials
Union Leader Correspondent
JEFFERSON — A New Jersey family spent an unexpected night in the Presidential Range Wednesday night, after heavy rains forced them to bail off the trail and wait out the weather.
Steven Humphrey of Warren, N.J., his wife, Nancy Levine, and their children and two young friends were undertaking a hike across the Presidential Range, spending the nights at Appalachian Mountain Club huts.
"They left the Madison Spring hut (Wednesday) and were headed to Lake of the Clouds, but the weather moved in," said Fish and Game Lt. Doug Gralenski.
The group decided to head off the mountain and down to their vehicle, which was parked at the AMC's Highland Center in Crawford Notch.
"That was a good thing, so they made a good decision, given the weather," he said. "They were going to attempt going down the Castle Ravine trail, but it turned out to be more rugged than they thought."
Humphrey made the decision to leave the group and head down the Cap Ridge trail to retrieve the vehicle in Crawford Notch, leaving them at about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"By the time he got to Jefferson Notch, down the (Cog Railway) base road and out to Fabyan, at that no hour, no one was around," Gralenski said, forcing Humphrey to walk another four or five miles on Route 302 to reach the Highland Center.
He reached the center just after 2 a.m. yesterday and called for help.
Levine and the children, who ranged in age from 10 to 14, were found on the Cap Ridge trail at about 8 a.m.
"Fortunately it was a mild night," Gralenski said. "There were a couple of very tuckered-out kids and everyone was wet, but they were all right."
Because the group had planned to stay at huts each night, they were not prepared for a night in the elements. They did have food and changes of clothes.
As the Labor Day weekend approaches, Gralenski said the family's experience is a good reminder to be prepared for the harshest conditions, no matter what the conditions are in the valley.
Information on how to prepared for a hike in New Hampshire's woods and mountains is available at www.hikesafe.com [end quote]

09-02-2005, 02:43 PM
This reminds me about one of the first lessons from my dad about hiking. Dad said that any time you go into the wilderness you should be prepared to spend the night in case you can't make it out. He said if you're not prepared then you don't belong out there.

09-02-2005, 03:59 PM
A few years back I was hiking from Mizpah to Lakes and then to Madison, staying in the huts. I got laughed at by quite a few of the people that were staying in the huts because I had as they put it, "so much stuff." I had a sleeping bag, a bivy, compass, map, book, rain gear, a complete change of clothes, water bottles, etc, etc.. All in all it probably weighed 20lbs. I kept telling them that you never know when you may have to spend the night on the trail, and at least I would be warm and dry if necessary. The irony is there was a better chance I would be sticking one of them into my bivy to keep them warm. People think that the huts are great because they don't have to carry anything. I don't know how many times I have seen people on Washington wearing a garbage bag for rain gear with running shoes on because they didn't bring enough gear.

I'm glad these people made it out okay though!!!

09-02-2005, 07:20 PM
First off Im very glad the family is safe, thats what is the most important thing for sure. I hate second guessing and thats not my intention but since its out there I had a few "obsevations". I dont think, no I know,I wouldnt have left the kids, what was the intention to iniciate rescue? You never know what party members will do when you leave them behind, they could have took off on there own and things could have really gotten bad.
I think this illustates a great point, while I do not care for huts, they are the right and option of many, but as someone before me stated so eloquently, you should still be prepared to "make it " without them as plans can sometimes change. Another point,it is critical to know the area your hiking in, just because your intinary is "huts" that doesnt mean you should not know the proper trails at hand to utilize if your initial plans become foiled. Bail out routes at any given point should be know and used given where you are and the circumstances you are encountering. I always know compass bearings for various points on my climb before hand and they are ready to go if needed. Now in all fairness, this stragety might be a little advanced for a family but it is still proper protocal for traversing such potentialy dangerous ground. I simply bring up thses points as a ' helpfull" observation.
Im glad there safe, open dialog is helpfull and constructive.

09-02-2005, 07:35 PM
I never depend on huts or lean-to's.
I'd rather carry the weight and be prepared.

09-02-2005, 08:48 PM
I have to agree with Sierra, I would have never separated the group. The most important thing is to stay together and keep moving. Standing still in the pouring rain is a recipe for disaster, thank goodness everyone was okay.

09-03-2005, 06:48 AM
Just to throw in MHO.

It would appear from the report that the kids were still with the mom (adult). I think to simply say, "I would never leave the group" is a bit simplistic and doesn't cover a host of scenerios that could take place...even in this situation. Not to say it was right/wrong, just that we don't know the group situation (physical), group dynamics at the time, etc..

Several have mentioned excellent points about the huts, prepardness, etc..

I would hope that huts use this incident to help teach others. Instead of the usual "How to fold a blanket." sketch the croo does (do they still do that?). I would think scenarios like this would go along way to help educating others.

Glad everything worked out.


Mad Townie
09-03-2005, 07:15 AM
I'm with Jaytrek on this one. It sounded from the news report as if these people knew pretty much what they were doing, for the most part. They bailed at the right time and for the right reason, one adult stayed with the kids and the other went for the car or for help. Had this been I, I'm not sure I would have made the call. I might have been more likely to get the car, drive to the trailhead and hike up to meet the rest of the family.

As for the gear issues, I'm not sure what they had. OK, they didn't have tent or bivvy sack, and probably no sleeping bags, but did they have rain gear? If so, and depending on the ages of the kids, the decisions weren't so bad. After all, what good would a down bag have done them in the rain without a waterproof enclosure?

Another question I had was where the group hunkered down. Was it above treeline and unprotected (bad idea) or was it in a protected area, best below treeline? At least they didn't try going down into the Great Gulf!!!

As always, the news reports leave much to our speculation, and that speculation can make all the difference.

09-03-2005, 09:17 AM
I don't understand why more folks don't carry them, but I strongly beleive a 8x10 tarp and rope should be kept in the daypack if one is not carrying any other form of shelter.

Here (http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=12165)

A Standard 1.9 oz or 2.1 oz nylon tarp weights about 1.5 lbs along with 1/2 lb of rope and provides a multitude of pitching options - especially with a trekking pole. I also use a 5x8 tent footprint for solo dayhikes and one can get these tent footprints extremely cheap as manufacturers closeout items.
Footprints (http://outdooroutlet.com/shopping.php?pg=products&cat=4&PHPSESSID=62e9fcbc8693bb3fb8adce84c5b8e647)
(Look for the Items marked in red prices)

09-04-2005, 10:01 AM
Glad they all made it out safely. I wonder sometimes if people thing walking from Madison Hut to Lakes is a walk in the park, especially if avoiding the summits? It is still a long way with lots of ups and downs and tons of exposure with little escape possible. This inexpenxive bivy sack (http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=99840)is a procuct that a lot of folks carry. I know of one member of VFTT who used it when his tent was failing and it kept him warm and dry on a cool rainy night in the Presis.

09-04-2005, 07:54 PM
This inexpenxive bivy sack (http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=99840)is a procuct that a lot of folks carry.

Good thought. I have one of these. I bought it after encountering high winds on the Crawford Path. I realized the space blanket I had as emergency cover would be nearly useless in such conditions. Once disclaimer tho: I seriously question its wicking capabilites. I tried to use it as additional insulation one cold night and the condensation between the bags was tremendous. Doubt that would matter a whole lot if it was the only shelter you had tho.

09-04-2005, 10:40 PM
It's odd to me the view of "not leaving the group". I've always been under the impression that solo hiking is dangerous and that hiking in a min. party of 3 is ideal. If someone gets hurt the injured person along with one hiking partner would stay and stablize the condition, then the other person would go for help. If you are in a group and your all lost and/or in trouble and in a situation where 1 can travel a lot faster than the group why not leave to get help, especially if you know where they will be? If this is a bad strategy please post your reason so I can understand more.

09-05-2005, 04:59 PM
Heres where I was coming from in my comments. I was mearly thinking about the kids and what they might do in thier fathers absense. I guess their mother was their yes? I didnt reread the first post to be honest, but I just dont understand why in so many cases, some of the party flees and the others stay behind, My thought is this, why dont they all stay together and get themselves out?????? Yes I solo and that brings me right back to my point, I dont have to leave anyone behind. People and I dont care who, familys couples, singles, boyscouts, girlscouts, everybody " runs" for help these days, hurry call the fish and game!!!!!!!" we will wait here to get helped out", quite frankly the more I talk or type about it the more it frustrates me, gone are the days when people who spent time in the backcoutry where sound woodsman and mountaineers, and when pride experience and a liitle mental toughness was all ot took to "rescue" yourself. To be honest I know the Fish and Game misses those days as much as I do.
To be fair I dont know all the facts in this case and Im sure the father attempted to do the right thing. One question I have though is the family was found on the Caps ridge trail, why couldnt they just hike down? that trail is a little steep in places but short, Ive done it in the winter and rain and if your in trouble there are much harder places to go down ( like Castle ravine) another question What was the fish and game going to do walk them down the Caps Ridge?
I will leave it at this, my above comments Il stand by, but as for this family Ill leave that for others to decide if they could have done things differently, I feel bad judgeing them to be honest, I feel for them and what they went through and am just glad their safe.

09-06-2005, 10:11 AM
Aside from not having some sort of emergency shelter (and perhaps they did, we don't really know) I think this group did everything right. When bad weather came in they made the right decision to bail out and get off the ridge. When it was apparent they weren't going to make it out together, one member went for help while the rest stayed put.

Madison Hut to the Highland Center is quite a slog. I'm sure when the father got there he was exhausted and rightfully concerned for the safety of his family and children's friends. Not calling for help at 2 a.m. while your family and kid's friends are stuck on the mountain would have been irresponsible.

The conventional wisdom is that it isn't one bad decision that leads to catastrophe, but a series of smaller bad decisions. While Monday morning quarterbacking this one I see one bad decision, not being prepared to spend a night out. From there, the group minimized their risk by not continuing the chain of bad decisions. The could have tried to press on to Lakes and gotten lost above tree line. They could tried to press on exhausted, wet, and in the dark and ended up lost or injured. The father could have driven back to the trailhead at 2 a.m. to try to rescue his family only to take a fall, or get lost and leave his family waiting for help with nobody knowing they were in trouble.

I'm careful not to criticize those who find themselves in need of help. You never know, regardless of how prepared you are, when you might find yourself in need of help.

09-06-2005, 10:43 AM
I don't like second-guessing other people's decisions in this kind of case, but I was up there a couple of days earlier with a friend on a day with potential afternoon thunderstorms. We hiked over Madison, Adams and Jefferson and came down the Caps Ridge trail. When we started our bailout route (which we didn't need) was to go downhill to the Randolph Path and back to Appalachia. I think the best thing the family from NJ could have done would have been to descend to Grey Knob where shelter and assistance would have been available.

09-07-2005, 11:09 AM
Every Croo at every Hut, I believe, continues to perform the immemorial breakfast skit, in three parts -
1. How to fold your blankets,
2. Packing out evrything you brought in, and
3. Last but not least, tipping the Croo.
They also read the weather, with suitable caveats about summit conditions.

Mike P.
09-07-2005, 02:38 PM
Not enough info to really gauge much but I believe at least asking questions & analyzing is important to try & learn what happened. (If you want to call it 2nd guessing fine.)

What I (maybe we) don't know:

Their experience both in hiking (NJ family could be ADK & Catskill vets) & in knowing the Presidentials (assuming they did not know much about Presi's.

Age of the kids (hard for us to fathom sending your kids hiking without us, we're all hiking nuts) NJ parents of the friends felt comfortable having their kids' parents (maybe neighbors) drive their kids from NJ to NH to hike in area they probably had heard some weather stories about. My guess is that kids were teens - the parents who hiked may have needed to bribe their kids with the bring your friends in order to get their kids into the trip) either way I can't see letting an 8 year old do this trip trusting my neighbor, the State park in the next town sure, a Presidential Trip (or if I don't know much about hiking) a trip over Mt. Washington and other mountains)

Why did they leave the ridge? Was it T-storms or cool temps & rain & wind? What was their plan when they left ridge, shelter? Did they take one car & take shuttle from HC to Appalachia the first day & then hike up to Madison Hut? How far down Castle Ravine did they go before realizing it was too rough? Did they go back up to Edmands & get to Cap's Ridge from the top of Jefferson or did they take Link? What time did they leave hut? Did they head south when they left hut or did they go up & hit Madison?

IMO They should/would could have:

Hit Madison Summit first day so if they did not have to do this in AM & take roughly 90 minutes away from trip to LOC? What was forecast that AM, obviously descending Valley Way was an option but would not get them to car (if only 1 & at HC) if weather was sudden why retreat on a good morning. If two cars, could have descended VW & drove to Ammo if getting to reserved hut was so important - shuttle really does not allow much flexibility if people are trying to get to their cars, probably worth the flexibility to drive two cars up, adults could have had two kids in each car. (at $3 a gallon that's expensive trip insurance but IMO worth it)

Due to late time I suspect they hit Madison in AM.

Only reason I could see for using Castle Ravine as a descent route would be T-storms or Horrific weather (of lore magnitude, even then RMC Shelters would make more sense), Castle Ravine, gets you down quicker Vs. meandering Randolph Path. Randolph provides better footing but leaves you also in wind & rain (soon snow) longer but better footing should prevent adding injury due to fall as another problem. Quicker shelter at RMC camps makes this trail from Edmands along with a couple from T-storm junction as better escape rotes to shelter

Since we don't know anyone's experience or strength hard to know if all should have made ER trip to HC or if it made sense to send fastest stongest hiker to get car & then come back to trailhead & if needed hike up to help. With four kids if any had some experience one of them should have gone with dad if 14+ (or so), what if he slipped & became unconscious or worse?

While I solo I have found taht I don't race as face down the trail anymore & I feel like I'm more careful with foot placement - this may be also that I'm a parent as opposed to being single when I started solo hiking.

Big mistake was walking down entire Base Road down to Fabyanís & then having to walk back to HC. Thatís got to be a two or three mile walk on 302 + Base Road & after starting from Madison Hut, he wasnít walking up 302 at top speed. After coming down Jefferson Notch Road he should have continued on Mt. Clinton Road. Did he have headlamp? You might be able to walk Base Road in dark, Mt. Clinton Road would be harder without a light. Usually you would want a light for after dark trips to menís room at the huts

From where & when did he call for SAR? Is there an outside pay phone at the Irving Station on 302? Was cell phone in car or no cell reception or no cell? Did SAR mobilize at 2:00 or did they wait until daylight?

If they had descended to Loweís can you get a taxi in that area after dark? Is a number posted at trailheads or at Loweís store.

Appears they were trying to be self-reliant in getting back to their car. If you are unwilling to hitch or believe you canít get a taxi in Gorham, Randolph, Jefferson, etc arenít you just as stuck if you are on Route 2 farther away from your car, The Randolph Marriott is not open at midnight if you get down late. Conditions in Woods on Cap's Ridge a bit worse than sitting at trailhead waiting for next AM's Hiker Shuttle.

Since Iím guessing on weather, time & donít have a clue how they got from Castle Ravine to Capís Ridge, itís hard to say anything definitive.

It would seem that they did not have a good grasp on escape routes in the Northern Presidentials they were also unaware RMC shelters not far from where they decided to get off the ridge. The father apparently either did not know the roads &/or did not have a light. If they only had one car, the roads should have been considered in addition to trails when thinking about escape routes & alternative ways to walk to the car.

Glad they are all okay

Tom Rankin
09-07-2005, 03:47 PM
Every Croo at every Hut, I believe, continues to perform the immemorial breakfast skit, in three parts -
1. How to fold your blankets,
2. Packing out evrything you brought in, and
3. Last but not least, tipping the Croo.
They also read the weather, with suitable caveats about summit conditions.

Yes they do.

They do a lot more than that too.

It was great to get to Lonesome Lake last week, and have the croo girl say, "It's nice to have a few *real* hikers up here"! :D

They are usually very helpful about route planning, and the naturalist usually knows all about the local flora and fauna. The girl at LL recognized 6 different snowshoe hares by sight.

They also have projects for kids and adults to do to familiarize themselves with the great outdoors. I participate as a guest naturalist once in a while, doing astronomy shows.

09-07-2005, 05:32 PM
I second Tom Rankin's good words. We stayed at Lonesome Lake ourselves last Friday night after a loop up to Cannon and NE Cannon Ball and the naturalist gallantly tried to explain the constellations after dinner as the clouds rolled in. They were also most obliging about our friends from NYC, who were tied up in traffic and didn't get there until 7:30, but still were served the full menu, hot.

Tom Rankin
09-07-2005, 05:56 PM
I second Tom Rankin's good words. We stayed at Lonesome Lake ourselves last Friday night after a loop up to Cannon and NE Cannon Ball and the naturalist gallantly tried to explain the constellations after dinner as the clouds rolled in. They were also most obliging about our friends from NYC, who were tied up in traffic and didn't get there until 7:30, but still were served the full menu, hot.

Hey, maybe she learned something from me! :D

09-07-2005, 09:20 PM
To defend my simplistic response, allow me to elaborate. Having 4 grown children of my own, quite possibly, my motherly instinct took hold of me when I read this thread. I do think they made the right decision to end there hike and descend down into the Caps Ridge Trail. And far be it for me to be judgemental, people make decisions based on there experience or lack of.
I think that perhaps I was thinking of the what if's:
What if the temperature dropped throughout the night?
What if one of the children became hypothermic? or worse the mother.
What if the father fell and hurt himself and never reached the road?

Obviously there are questions we have no answers to in this particular situation but it just seems to me that they should of stayed together and descended the trail together. That was my "gut feeling" when I first read this and I still feel that way.

09-08-2005, 09:21 AM
Analyzing incidents like this prepares you better for the evenutality of an unplanned bivuoac or worse. That's why Mohamed's accident reports are the main thing I read in Appalachia.

I think it's important to recognize that there is rarely only one right way to respond to a incident like this but surely there are many more errors that could be made that could make the situation worse. The biggest error in my mind is an unprepared "it can't happen to me attitude".

I had an unplanned bivuoac once. It came as no surprise since it was an ambitious hike/bushwhack that started out rather late for the distance. It was the ONE time, however, that in the interest of saving space and weight in my day pack, I omitted my rain gear. (I now have more packable gear that is less tempting to leave behind.) Aside from that everything worked out as might have been anticipated: fire starting in damp weather (but only to assure it was possible, didn't really need it), a bed of fir boughs, a tarp from a very packable and never before (or since) used space blanket, and an otherwise comfortable night near a babbling brook.

09-08-2005, 11:17 AM
I too have been questioned as to why I always carry a bivy and a rain fly when traveling above tree line. Twice on the Presidential Ridge, I and several of my hiking friends had to shelter ourselves from a storm that came upon us rather quickly without the opportunity to retreat below tree line. The rain fly kept us dry until the storm passed.

Once while stopping in Lakes of the Clouds for water and a bathroom break en route to Boott Spur the sky opened and it starting pouring. My friend, who was new to hiking and questioned why I insisted that she bring along foul weather gear and a hat and gloves when the weather called for a beautiful day, thanked me profusely after donning her foul weather gear. The looks on the faces of the folks who obviously drove up or took the train, was priceless.

I too do not wish to second guess the family. Iím just thankful that they didnít turn into another statistic.