Search and Rescue

In August 2010, AMC Director of Huts and Pinkham James Wrigley received a call that a young hiker was in critical condition after falling hundreds of feet down steep sloping rock. The teen had been hiking on the Huntington Ravine Trail of Mount Washington, one of the most challenging and dangerous trails in the White…

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This story was originally published in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of Appalachia Journal. Pam Bales left the firm pavement of the Base Road and stepped onto the snow-covered Jewell Trail to begin her mid-October climb. She planned a six-hour loop hike by herself. She had packed for almost every contingency and intended to walk alone….

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The Swiss Miss Fire started on a hot August day in 2017. Deep in the 100-Mile Wilderness, 300 feet from the Appalachian Trail, someone had stopped to make cocoa on Columbus Mountain. “It was in one of those high, dry areas where you get deep layers of decayed leaf matter and moss,” explains Steve Tatko,…

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A search-and-rescue (SAR) mission to locate a missing or injured person can involve helicopters whirring overhead, boats cruising the ocean, trucks traversing back roads, dogs tracking scents, and hikers risking life and limb in the backcountry. For organizations such as Down East Emergency Medicine Institute (DEEMI), based in Orono, Maine, another tool has become essential: drones. More inexpensively deployed than helicopters, drones can reach remote areas…

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Given their trailside access in the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), AMC’s high-mountain huts staff are often the first responders to backcountry emergencies. Along with cooking, cleaning, and providing trail information, hut croo also serve as volunteers in search-and-rescue incidents. Virtually all AMC backcountry staff—hut croo, caretakers, and trail crew members—are certified in Wilderness First…

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The following simple items can help rescuers find you in the event of a backcountry emergency. A whistle. Shouts for help can only be heard a few hundred yards away, at best. The piercing sound of a loud whistle carries more than a mile away. What’s more, you can blow a whistle in regular bursts…

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Working at Hermit Lake Shelters, at the base of New Hampshire’s well-known Tuckerman Ravine, can be pretty cool. The upside? Caretakers spend a lot of time outdoors, and if they’re lucky, some of that time involves making first tracks on a bluebird powder day. The downside? The ravine can be downright cold, and if a…

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What follows is an excerpt from Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast, available now from  AMC Books. The screen door on the ranger’s cabin slammed hard in the wind. Baxter State Park Ranger Ralph Heath rose stiffly from the supper table to secure the latch, uneasy over the…

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AMC Outdoors, November/December 2015 While working in the White Mountain National Forest and assisting on search and rescue (SAR) missions, I quickly learned an invaluable lesson: Keep your cell phone on at all times. When officials from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the lead agency in charge of SAR in the state, initiate…

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Appalachian Mountain Club volunteers and staff assist with dozens of search and rescue operations in the White Mountains every year. See what’s involved in providing this valuable service. Watch more AMC videos on YouTube.  

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