CONTACT:
Col. Jeffrey Gray: (603) 271-3128
Lt. Todd Bogardus: (603) 271-3361
January 22, 2007


Lost Hiker Rescued from Mount Lafayette Summit

CONCORD, N.H. -- The White Mountain search for lost hiker Brian Gagnon, age 24, of Merrimack, N.H., ended successfully today (Monday, January 22, 2007), when Gagnon was rescued by helicopter from his location near the summit of Mt. Lafayette after being found by wilderness search and rescue teams coordinated by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. He had survived two nights on the mountain in subzero temperatures, with wind and snow creating white-out conditions on Sunday. He was subsequently airlifted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon to be treated for frostbite to his feet and hands. Gagnon was conscious when rescuers reached him.

Gagnon had been missing since he separated from his two hiking companions on Saturday, January 20, on Mt. Lafayette, when the group encountered treacherous winter conditions. His companions had returned safely to the Old Bridle Path trailhead in Franconia Notch on Saturday evening.

Eight search teams, with dozens of trained rescuers, began searching Sunday without success, with search efforts hampered by cold temperatures and winds up to 60 MPH.

The winds subsided on Monday, allowing two Army National Guard helicopters to deploy to the scene. One allowed searchers to scan the mountainside from the air. The other helicopter, a Blackhawk, was used to ferry teams of trained wilderness rescue personnel to the summit of Mt. Lafayette. From there, the teams fanned out, traversing below the treeline to search for Gagnon's footprints. More than 65 skilled searchers were involved in the effort on Monday.

Teams discovered the hiker's tracks at about 10:35 a.m. on Monday, January 22. Following the footprints, they found a water bottle and ski poles that fit the description of the man's equipment, and eventually an abandoned makeshift shelter. The tracks continued for several thousand feet, where the search team found Gagnon, wrapped in a sleeping bag; he had put his mittens on his feet to protect them. Searchers determined that he had bushwhacked about a mile from the Mt. Lafayette summit, heading into the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area. Gagnon was hoisted by helicopter, from near where he was found, at about 1:20 p.m.

"The fact that he had good winter hiking and camping equipment with him probably saved Brian Gagnon's life," said Col. Jeffrey Gray of New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement. "In addition, the remarkable team effort by search organizations and the Army National Guard made the difference in safely recovering this man."

According to Gray, ferrying the search teams by helicopter to the summit saved searchers many hours of time and grueling effort that would have been required to traverse the rugged terrain and reach the top to begin the search.

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers were joined in the search effort by the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue Services, the Upper Connecticut Valley Search and Rescue and the New Hampshire Army National Guard.

No further information is available at this time.

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For more information about safe winter hiking and mountaineering in New Hampshire, click here to visit www.hikeSafe.com. The site offers recommended gear lists and safety tips, such as always keeping a hiking group together.

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