Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stranded at the Top of a Mountain

On this day last year, I was at the top of Mount Jefferson when one of the girls in our group of four, broke her leg. 
Jefferson is the third highest mountain in New Hampshire at 5712 feet. All four of us were working on our 4000 footer list. One of the girls in the group had hiked it before and recommended it.  We knew it was going to have amazing views and most of the hike is above the tree line.

The Details

Elevation: 5,712 feet (1,741 meters)
Prominence: What is Prominence? 742 feet (226.2 meters)
Location: Thompson and Meserves Purchase, NH (Coös County, New Hampshire, USA)
Range: Presidential Range
Coordinates: 44°18'15" North     71°19'01" West
Rating: How do the ratings work? Difficult
Features: Cascades, Rock Scrambles What are Rock Scrambles?, Alpine Zone What is an Alpine Zone?, 360 Degree Views, Peak Bagging What is Peak Bagging?
Distance of highlighted hike below: 5 miles
We were all excited for the hike even though we realized once we reached the trailhead that the chance of views at the top was going to be minimal.  The whole mountain was socked in but we weren't going to let that deter us.  We met quite a few people on the way up.  Most of them passed us but then we ended up seeing them again.  Almost all of them had turned around once they reached tree line and decided not to go on. They thought the weather was too bad to continue.  If only we had thought that too.  We decided to trudge on because in all honesty, the weather wasn't that terrible.  It was foggy and misting slightly but it wasn't slippery or anything.
Every time we met a group who turned around, we reevaluated the situation and each time, decided to continue.
The trail we took had lots of rock scrambles and some rock climbing which is what I love in a hike.  In all honesty, if you take away all the bad stuff that happened, this was one of my favorite hikes I've done.  It's relatively short but strenuous and full of obstacles.
Below are photos from the hike up.
This was pretty much the view the whole way to the top.



The summit was full of those huge rocks you see in the above photo.  That photo was taken at the top.  Since it was windy and crappy at the top, we ate lunch and decided to head out because it had started to rain. We started our way down slowly because we knew the rocks might be slippery because of the rain. Then it happened. 
We had left the summit about 10 minutes before that.  I was in the lead and my friend was behind me when she slipped on a rock.  I turned around to ask if she was ok because I literally just thought she slipped and that's when she told me that she broke her ankle. We later found out it was her leg but at this time, we thought it was her ankle. It took me a second to understand and believe what she said. During that time, she had quickly twisted her leg back into place and the other two girls caught up to us. After I realized what happened, my mind started racing about how we were going to get down the mountain. We didn't have any cell service at this point and another girl and I took charge.  Luckily, we had hiking poles and some bungee cords that we were able to secure around her leg as a splint.
Obviously my friend didn't want to move but we could see that she was going into shock.  Her lips were blue and she kept wanting to be sick. I'm the closest to her so I had to tell her the truth.  No one was coming for her because we couldn't contact anyone and we needed to get below tree line. That was our goal when we started moving, get below tree line. I was pretty much the only one she trusted to help her slowly move down the trail.  Keep in mind that this is not an easy dirt trail.  The majority of the hike is all rocks. It took us literally 2 hours to go 0.4 miles.  It was excruciatingly slow going.
If there is one thing that I am not, it is patient. Never have been and never will be. I'm also not much of a care taker.  It was hard for me to be the only one she wanted to depend on. I knew we weren't going to make it to the treeline by dark all by ourselves.  We were finally able to get some cell service.  We called the number for forest rescue but there had been another accident that day as well and all their resources were there. Unfortunately, the person on that hike didn't make it out alive. We were pretty much told that if she was walking, to keep going.  We called the injured girl's parents but they really couldn't do anything.  Finally, I called Errol.  I needed him for moral support and I knew that he would come. 
He did, after working a 10 hour day, he climbed up that mountain in about an hour. I have never been more happy to see him and more proud that he was mine than at that moment. Along the way, we saw only a couple people.  One person pretended like they didn't know what was going on and passed us and then the other hero of the day came along. A guy and his young son were on the way up when they passed us.  They stopped and we heard the dad discussing with his son that they needed to turn back and help us. I still remember him saying to his son that they had been on this hike before and knew what was at the top and they really needed to do this. He was a life saver. At one point, his son got pretty emotional over what was happening so he actually took his son back down the mountain and came back up to help us. Errol was literally picking her up and setting her down on the parts where there were step downs.
The one reward we had is that the clouds parted and we had the most amazing views on the way down. At one point, we had the moon on one side of us and the setting sun on the other.


One of my favorite pictures I've taken.
After all was said and done, we ended up getting to our cars alittle after midnight.  We were on that mountain for 14 hours. Errol ended up getting like 2 hours sleep and going to work the next day.  My friend had to have surgery on her leg and had a plate and some screws put in.  She still isn't 100% but she probably never will be.  The hike down really messed up her leg.
So that's my story of how one of my worst fears while hiking came true. I never want to be in a situation like that again.  I am way more cautious now about my footing when I hike because I know what happened to her could have easily happened to any one of us that day. 
If you made it to the end of this post, you deserve a medal or a drink, or both. 


  1. Oh my goodness- that must have been so scary! bet she is very grateful for all the help!

  2. What a gorgeous place. I can quickly lose my patience in such situations. Errol was certainly impressive, doing all that and then only sleeping for two hours before work.

  3. omg, TERRIFYING!!! Wow, I'm glad your friend is okay. aldsjfaldkjfaldkjfladkjf. (that's me getting heebie-jeebies). The last thing I am doing in the NW before moving next weekend is hiking mt. st. helen's. blah. Kinda scared about things like this.

    In other news, those views are gorgeous!!!

    1. OMG, can't wait to see your pics from Mt St. Helen's. It sounds like that will be a cool hike.