Capt. Martin Garabedian: (603) 271-3127
Liza Poinier: (603) 271-3211
January 16, 2004

Recovered Backpacker Identified

CONCORD, N.H. -- The winter backpacker whose body was recovered yesterday in the White Mountains has been identified as Kenneth Holmes, 37, of Athol, Massachusetts. The Medical Examiner's Office has determined that the cause of Holmes' death was "hypothermia due to environmental exposure." Family members have been notified.

The recovery, at 4,600 feet elevation near South Twin Mountain and the Twinway Trail in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest, concluded a search effort that began yesterday morning, Thursday, January 15. A search-and-rescue was initiated after the Appalachian Mountain Club notified Fish and Game late Wednesday that Holmes was reported overdue from a backpacking trip.

According to Capt. Martin Garabedian of Fish and Game, Holmes departed for a winter mountaineering trip on Monday morning, Jan. 12, from Lincoln Woods off the Kancamagus Highway, and was expected to return on Wednesday, Jan. 14. Holmes was last heard from on Tuesday evening, when he reportedly called a friend on his mobile phone. At the time, Holmes told the friend he was camping near the summit of Mt. Bond in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, and was trying to ascertain the quickest route down from the mountain. The friend reportedly advised Holmes of two possible routes, and did not perceive that Holmes was in any type of distress. Holmes is said to have been an avid backcountry hiker and camper and was carrying equipment including a tent and stove.

A helicopter search by the Army National Guard started at Mt. Bond on Thursday morning; personnel saw tracks that they were able to follow along the Bondcliff Trail toward Mt. Guyot, then northwest along the Twinway Trail. The tracks were intermittent because of drifting snow; the last tracks rescuers saw were near the junction of South Twin Mountain and the Twinway Trail, near where the victim's body was located, approximately 3.5 miles from the summit of Mt. Bond. The body was airlifted off the mountain Thursday afternoon and transported to Concord Hospital.

According to rescue personnel, evidence showed that the victim's behavior was typical of someone in the advanced stages of hypothermia; he had removed some articles of clothing, and tracks showed that his movements were erratic.

Staff and volunteers from New Hampshire Fish and Game, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Army National Guard participated in the search-and-recovery effort.
The area where Holmes was located is several miles of rough hiking from the nearest road, in a highly-exposed area with several peaks above 4,000 feet elevation. Weather conditions in New Hampshire this week have been extremely cold, windy and dangerous, with the temperature dropping well below zero throughout the state. Mt. Washington Observatory reported temperatures ranging from -29 degrees F down to -44 degrees F on Wednesday in the White Mountains, with a reported wind chill of -94 on Mt. Washington.

For hiking safety information, click here.

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