Hiker’s desperate text to wife prompts ‘high-risk’ mountain rescue, NH officials say

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The hiker, identified as 53-year-old Xi Chen of Andover, Massachusetts, died of his injuries Saturday night, June 18, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division said Sunday.

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A desperate text message kicked off a “high risk” mountain rescue in New Hampshire, state officials said.

A hiker was trekking alone when cold weather struck Mount Clay and the surrounding area, in northern New Hampshire, on Saturday, June 18.

Around 6:30 p.m., the hiker sent a text to his wife, saying he was wet and cold “and could not continue on,” state wildlife officials said in a release. If rescue didn’t come, he believed he would die.

The brutal weather caught many unprepared hikers off guard, officials said, and crews had already been responding to other requests for rescue throughout the day. But it was clear this case was especially urgent, and help was immediately dispatched to find the hiker.

“The conditions in the high peaks were treacherous; freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, snow and winds gusting over 80 mph. Only those with the experience, training and adequate gear were utilized for this rescue,” officials said.

The road to the mountain summit was iced over, but rangers at nearby Mt. Washington State Park affixed chains to the wheels of their trucks and hauled rescuers up. From there they set off into the biting wind, hiking downward from the mountaintop to where they believed the hiker would be. It was 9:30 p.m.

A little more than an hour later, rescuers came upon the hiker, officials said. He was “severely hypothermic,” unresponsive but alive.

The crew put up a temporary shelter around the man and tried to warm him.

He remained unresponsive despite their efforts, so rescuers secured him and began carrying him back to where the trucks had dropped them off.

It was over a mile uphill and the weather hadn’t let up, officials said. The rain chilled the crew and the wind pushed against them, but they made it, and loaded the hiker into a truck bound for an ambulance waiting at the base of the mountain.

The ambulance arrived at an area hospital at 1:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 19. Officials do not know what the condition of the hiker is.

“Sometimes having enough gear is not enough,” officials said, warning the public to pay attention to forecasts and respect the weather. “In weather conditions experienced this weekend it is better to descend and get out of the wind and cold instead of pushing on until it is too late.”

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