Hiker Who Was Rescued After 11-Hour Ordeal: I Made Bad Decisions

Cole Matthes says he was 'underprepared' for hike on New Hampshire peak
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 21, 2024 3:00 AM CST
Updated Feb 25, 2024 3:55 PM CST
Hiker Who Was Rescued After 11-Hour Ordeal Admits Bad Decisions
In this image provided by New Hampshire Fish and Game, snow covers the rails on the train tracks leading to the summit Mount Washington above the Cog Railway base station, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Mount Washington, NH.   (Conservation Officer Brad Jones/New Hampshire Fish and Game via AP)

As temperatures plunged on New Hampshire's Mount Washington and ferocious winds made it near impossible to see, hiker Cole Matthes began to drift away from the trail. Then he hit a patch of snow-covered ice and slid hundreds of feet down a ravine. His fall Saturday sparked a rescue mission that would last 11 hours, utilize the mountain's famed Cog Railway, and prompt harsh criticism from rescuers, who said the hiker made "numerous poor decisions" in preparing for the hike and then deciding to push on. Both Matthes and the rescuers agree that without help, he would have died within hours. "I am extremely grateful to all 11 of the men who saved my life Saturday and am also extremely sorry that they had to risk their lives to save me," Matthes tells the AP. "I certainly made poor decisions and was underprepared for this hike."

Matthes, a 22-year-old engineer from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said in an online interview that he has plenty of hiking experience but not during harsh winter conditions. He set off in spiked snowshoes planning to complete the challenging 9-mile Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail loop, which has an elevation gain of 4,200 feet. New Hampshire Fish and Game said that as conditions worsened, Matthes ignored advice from other hikers to turn back, and that he didn't have proper gear or equipment, didn't plan for the weather or make good decisions. In the past, the agency has sought to recover rescue costs from some hikers they consider negligent. The agency said it hasn't yet made a decision on the Matthes rescue. (The AP has more from Matthes' interview, plus accounts from rescuers, here.)

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