Lt. Douglas Gralenski, 603-271-3361
Col. Jeffrey Gray,  603 -271-3128
Jane Vachon, 603-271-3211
February 19, 2008

Missing Virginia Hikers Rescued

CONCORD, N.H. -- Search and rescue teams successfully located two missing hikers, Alex Obert, age 30, and Steven "Dewey" McCay, age 29, both of Arlington, Virginia, today (February 19).  Aerial searchers spotted the hikers on the Dry River Trail, approximately 4 miles from Route 302, about 10 a.m. this morning, and they were hoisted into an Army National Guard helicopter and on their way to safety by 10:15 a.m.  They are both in good condition and not in need of medical attention.  They were flown to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Highland Center, where McCay's family was waiting.

When located, the hikers were on the trail and working their way out. Searchers had focused on the Crawford Path and the upper reaches of the Great Gulf and Dry River Wilderness areas, hoping to find evidence where the two hikers may have left their planned route to seek shelter from the adverse weather.  Obert and McCay were well equipped with excellent gear and have several years of mountaineering experience.  Swollen brooks that hampered search efforts also hindered the hikers' ability to descend. 

N.H. Fish and Game had been alerted about 2:30 a.m. on Monday (February 18) that two overdue hikers were missing in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains.  The initial call came from Will Chere, a companion of the two hikers, who reported that Obert and McCay had left early Sunday morning to hike a 19-mile "Presidential" traverse (eight of the tallest mountains in the northeast, all named after U.S. presidents, the tallest being Mount Washington) and had not come out.

Chere reported that he had driven Obert and McCay to the Appalachian Trail parking lot off Route 2 in Randolph at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning (February 17).  The three had ascended the Valley Trail with the intention of being above treeline at first light.  At 8:30 a.m., they reached the height of land between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams.  As planned, Obert and McCay continued on to travel southward, with a final destination being the AMC Highland Center at the top of Crawford Notch, and Chere descended back down the Valley Way Trail. The plan was for Chere to drive to the Highland Center later that day to pick up his friends at 7 p.m. after they completed their hike.  When they did not show up, Chere contacted authorities.
At first light on Monday (February 18), searchers from N.H. Fish and Game's Advanced Search and Rescue Team, along with members of the Mountain Rescue Service, Appalachian Mountain Club and the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, began a comprehensive search of the Presidential Mountains to try and locate Obert and McCay.  However, Monday's search was hampered by heavy rains and high winds that made stream crossings difficult to impossible.  Heavy rains and unusually high temperatures had created flash flood conditions.  The poor weather also prevented use of the Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter on Monday because of limited visibility.

Despite adverse conditions, six teams of three to four searchers per team spent the entire day on Monday, into the evening hours, trying to find clues to give focus to the search.  The investigation turned up one sighting of Obert and McCay at the Edmund's Col, just to the north of Mt. Jefferson, at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Monday.  Unfortunately, that left 12 miles between the last point they were seen and their Crawford Notch destination. 

Fish and Game had continued the search today (February 19) using highly trained mountaineers experienced in winter search and rescue techniques.  With weather clearing, an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter was able to conduct aerial surveys, and a major ground search effort was underway, with searchers ascending the Mount Washington Auto Road with aid of the N.H. State Parks Snow Cat, as well as numerous other teams ascending various trails within the search area.

"The weather that was a major hindrance yesterday had relented, so we were able to use all of our resources," said Lt. Douglas Gralenski of the N.H. Fish and Game Department.

"Thankfully, today we have a successful outcome to what could have been a tragic situation.  Once again, this incident underscores the importance of proper planning," said Col. Jeffrey Gray, Chief of Law Enforcement at Fish and Game. "Even experienced winter hikers should not hesitate to turn back or postpone outings when severe weather is predicted or encountered.  The best of clothing and equipment may be no match for the severe winter weather often encountered in New Hampshire's White Mountains!"

No further information is available at this time.


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