UPDATED 4:35 p.m.
Lt. Robert Bryant: 603-271-3127
Liza Poinier: 603-271-3211
April 27, 2009
Search Ongoing for Massachusetts Teen Missing in White Mountains
CONCORD, N.H. - A search in New Hampshire's White Mountains has been ongoing since Sunday for a missing 17-year-old. Scott Mason of Halifax, Mass., left the Appalachian Mountain Club's Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at approximately 8:30 on Saturday morning, intending to do a 17-mile hike. Mason was hiking alone. His plans included hiking to the summits of Mount Washington and Mount Madison, then returning to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Mason's plan was to complete the trip in one day. It is unknown what type of clothing and gear he is carrying.
The conditions in the high country currently include waist-deep snow with the potential for avalanches. Heavy rains overnight Sunday and Monday morning have added to the difficulty of the search, with resulting high water making stream crossings extremely difficult. The temperatures have been mild, remaining in the 40s overnight.
Currently the NH Fish and Game Department is coordinating the search. The U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Mountain Club, Mountain Rescue Service and Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue are rendering additional assistance.
UPDATED 2:25 - According to Fish and Game's Lt. Douglas Gralenski, who is coordinating the search for Scott Mason, searchers were in the mountains until 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night, finding no evidence of Mason; they resumed the search early this morning and are in "full search mode." AMC staff, who spoke to Mason before his Saturday-morning departure from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, say that his plan was to summit Mt. Washington, to proceed northward on the Appalachian Trail, summiting Mts. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, before returning to Pinkham Notch, most likely on the Madison Trail by way of the Great Gulf Wilderness -- about an 18-mile hike.
Four teams of searchers are now out looking for Mason, Gralenski said. The Mount Washington Observatory Sno-Cat shuttled some searchers up to the top of Mt. Washington; they are searching the ridge between Mts. Washington and Adams. Other teams started searching from the base of the mountain up into the Great Gulf. More searchers are exploring possible "escape routes" Mason may have used on the west of the ridge.
From a survivability standpoint, Gralenski said the weather has not been a factor. But because of the recent warmth resulting in abrupt snowmelt, many brooks that are usually "step-across" are now impassable. Avalanche danger remains.
Searchers found a single set of boot prints, and are following them; however, because of heavy traffic in the mountains this weekend, it is unknown whether they could be Mason's prints.
UPDATED 4:35 - Lt. Douglas Gralenski reports that the search for Scott Mason has continued full force today, with at least 28 searchers on the ground. Searchers are still following the set of solo tracks discovered earlier Monday, which Gralenski calls "promising."
Teams are bringing in ropes to assist with stream crossings, which have become more difficult and dangerous during the day with the increased snowmelt. The weather in the White Mountains, Gralenski says, is "very mild for this time of year."
Mason was not carrying overnight gear, but was reportedly carrying snowshoes and an ice axe.
A helicopter is en route from Maine Forest Service; an aerial search will begin as soon as possible and continue until nightfall.
The search will continue as long as daylight allows, and will resume first thing in the morning if needed.
No further information is available at this time.
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The hikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code (below) applies to all those enjoying New Hampshire's outdoors. It says, you are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:
- With knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
- To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you'll return and your emergency plans.
- To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
- To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
- For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don't assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
- To share the hiker code with others.
For further information on being safe while hiking, visit www.hikesafe.com.
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