In NH, a Tiny Mountain Wins Again and Again

A Canadian man may be the latest victim of deadly Mt. Washington
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2016 6:33 AM CDT
In NH, a Tiny Mountain Wins Again and Again
Rime ice extends horizontally from a metal pole at the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

"Why does such a small mountain kill so many people?" That's the question Wes Siler, writing for Outside Online, set out to answer. The mountain is 6,288-foot-tall Mt. Washington, part of New Hampshire's White Mountain range, and since records began in 1849, some 150 people have died there. In February 2015, Kate Matrosova became one of them. Faced with winds of up to 140mph and a temperature of 35-below at the summit, the 32-year-old seasoned outdoorswoman died of exposure before rescuers could reach her. (The Boston Globe wrote about the tragedy in depth.) "God only knows why she didn't turn back," one of those rescuers, Steve Dupuis, tells Siler. The pair hiked Mt. Washington recently, and before they hit the trail, a state cop told them about Canadian Francois Carrier, who hadn't been seen since starting up the mountain earlier this month in flip-flops and a T-shirt.

The search for Carrier has been suspended, WMTW reports. The day after it was called off, Siler notes, the temperature on the mountain was 20-below—and that's one part of the answer to the question of why Mt. Washington is so deadly. “Mount Washington sits at the intersection of several major stormtracks,” a weather observer says, which creates extreme, unpredictable weather. On May 16, gusts on the mountain reached 109mph, per NPR. (See video here.) The record, set in 1934, was 231mph. In addition to the weather, Siler writes, Mt. Washington consists of tough terrain, and the danger of avalanches and icefalls looms. Noting that the mountain, treacherous as it is, is easily accessible to inexperienced hikers, Siler comes to the conclusion that, "on Washington, it's lack of preparation, not the mountain, that kills." (The remains of a climber lost 16 years have been found in Tibet.)

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