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Easton woman survives harrowing hike on Mt. Washington

Amy Baker, 45, of Easton, is an experienced hiker who was well equipped to hike Mount Washington; however, after blowing winds blocked her view of the trail she was on, and after a series of mishaps, she is lucky to have survived almost 20 hours on the frigid mountain. Fish and Game conservation officers rescued her after receiving her locator beacon alert. (Photo by Jody Houle) (click for larger version)
January 15, 2018
SARGENT'S PURCHASE A woman survived almost 20 hours out on a very frigid Mt. Washington last Wednesday, Jan. 10. She started her trek in the early morning. After reaching the peak, the trail down was obscured with spiraling clouds of snow keeping forcing her off the trail in knee to chin deep snow drifts. After several hours surviving, Rescuers reached her the next morning and helped her down the mountain to safety.

It is a miracle that Amy Baker, 45, of Easton, is alive.

"They found me , but they found me alive," said baker. "What saves you is the basic essentials and yourself."

Baker, an experienced hiker, has reached the 6,288.2 foot summit of the mountain before and has conquered all 48 4000 footers in the state. According to Fish and Game Lt. Wayne T. Saunders, she had a variety of necessary gear and equipment for hiking and survival, but strong winds created deep snow drifts and blurred the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail on the western part of the Mountain. She had previously reached the peak using the trail on 10 other occasions.

Baker took the trail at 8:30 a.m. that Wednesday morning and reached the summit with no problems. She headed down the trail about a mile and a half and, suddenly, there was zero visibility of the trail due to spiraling clouds of snow. She did not bring her snow shoes which could have helped trek down the tightly packed surface of the snow.

"There is one word you think of when you are on Mount Washington and see the snow swirling around like a tornado below you in the air in front of the closed Lake of Clouds hut, and that Is fear," said Baker in a Facebook post.

Winds blew at 40 miles per hour and gusts at 75 miles per hour causing layers of snow drifts engulfing the trail. When she reached Lake of the Clouds, she assessed the situation. She headed down what she thought was the general direction of the trail but ended up a half mile off trail at Monroe Brook Drainage. The snow drifts were above tree line and she sunk sometimes chin deep in areas where the snow was not packed causing her cuts and bruises.

During part of her trek down, she peeled edible bark of some trees to fuel up. She later discovered that she acquired cuts and bruises from the peeling.

A few mishaps occurred including losing her last unfrozen bottle of water.

She had a program on her cell phone that tracked her steps using GPS, but, unfortunately, her last portable battery charger had fallen when she was rolling.

One of her poles broke in a "hole" she said.

Without snow shoes, she decided to roll down the mountain to the tree line which is a typical tactic, according to Fish and Game officers, considering the circumstances. She later discovered that she had fractured her pinky finger and hurt her shoulder from rolling.

She made shelter on a tree with a bivy sack and activated her locator beaker and hoped for hours that she would be found.

Her extra pairs of socks, hats and gloves were soaking wet in her backpack. She was soaked through three layers.

She gathered sticks, retrieved matches from a Ziploc bag and made fires.

The wind was heavy and there was freezing rain in 10 degree temperatures minus the wind chill factor.

She managed to get a little sleep inside of a reflective, foil sleeping bag.

She blew her Howler whistle every hour.

"It was hard as I was dehydrated. The first time I did it, the silence, the fear, it instilled me. All you can think about is the Titanic where she is whistling to not a soul around, the fear of that every hour, the silence in the darkness," she described.

At about 2 a.m. on the following day, she heard a voice. She put her bare feet into her wet boots and slid down to the Fish and Game rescuers who found her. It took them about two hours to guide her to the trailhead where she was rendered safe.

Rescuers had received her beacon alert late in the afternoon and hiked four miles up the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail and then headed off trail to reach Baker. At times, members of the crew had also sunk from waist to chin deep in the snow. Although they had her in their sights, it still took them a half an hour to reach her as they fought deep snow and the bushes.

Baker and Fish and Game gave a strong warning, that even though she was well equipped and experienced, that no-one should ever rely on those factors alone.

"People want to run out and buy a tracker but it is important That no-one relies on that," urged baker. "the tracker did not work from noon to 3 p.m., and from 4:35 p.m. to 3 a.m. That is 10 hours of no tracking."

Fish and Game advise hikers to not hike alone.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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