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Lost Wilmington Hiker Rescued After Cold Night in the White Mountains

The Wilmington hiker experienced mild hypothermia, but sustained no major injuries when he spent a night in freezing conditions near the summit of Mount Haystack.

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Photo Credit: File Photo.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Photo Credit: File Photo.

A lost Wilmington hiker spent a bitterly cold night in the White Mountains Wednesday before being rescued and airlifted to safety near the summit of Mount Haystack, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reports.

David Fielding, 21, of Wilmington, set out the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 11 at about 8 a.m. to hike in Franconia Notch in Lincoln, N.H.

Fielding hiked up the Falling Waters Trail, then intentionally went off trail, eventually losing his way in the woods. He was reported overdue from his hike, and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was alerted at 2 a.m. Thursday.

By daylight, a search was coordinated and 10 Fish and Game Conservation officers and 10 volunteers from the Mountain Rescue Service set out to search the mountain for Fielding. An Army National Guard helicopter also assisted.

Fielding was located at 12:30 p.m. about 200 feet from the summit of Mount Haystack by other hikers on the Falling Waters Trail. They notified authorities by cell phone, and Fielding was airlifted off the mountain by the National Guard helicopter to a waiting ambulance, which took him to Littleton Hospital.

Fielding experienced mild hypothermia, but sustained no major injuries. 

"This young man may not have survived if he had not been carrying some cold weather gear, including a sleeping bag," said Sgt. Brian Suttmeier of N.H. Fish and Game. "His mistakes were hiking alone, intentionally leaving the marked trail, and going hiking when the weather was predicted to be inclement."

Fish and Game authorities remind hikers and climbers that mid-winter weather conditions are in full force above the treeline, including temperatures well below zero and days and nights with high winds, blowing snow and ice. Outdoor enthusiasts should be prepared for these Arctic-like conditions.
Kevin Wexler December 16, 2013 at 01:13 PM
Kudos to the Mountain Rescue Service as well as Mr. Fielding for having the tenacity to turn a dire situation into what will no doubt become a great campfire story someday. Having participated in a number of rescues turned recovery it is a sober reminder that the proper equipment (including the 10 essentials) and applied knowledge can make a world of difference. Best holiday gift of all.

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