Canadian hiker rescued from White Mountains after failing to light stove, put up tent

Monitor staff
Friday, January 06, 2017

A Toronto teenager found out the hard way how much can go wrong when hiking alone in the winter.

Xusheng Wang, 17, of Toronto, Canada, was rescued from the Liberty Springs Trail in Lincoln Thursday afternoon after Fish and Game conservation officers received a call around 6:30 p.m. of a cold, dehydrated hiker in the woods.

Coordinates placed the hiker at about 2.6 miles from the bike trail at the Liberty Springs tent site, according to a Fish and Game. Conservation officers found Wang at 10 p.m. and were able to provide dry clothing, and by 1 a.m. the party had made it out of the trail.

Wang had set out on a 35-mile, four-day hike from the trail earlier that day, despite advice from the Appalachian Mountain Club and Fish and Game not to do so. Temperatures were expected to drop into the teens that night. Wang had all the equipment necessary to complete the hike, but lacked the experience to do so. Officials say Wang  called for help after he was unable to operate his stove or set up his tent, and feared he would not be able to keep warm or rehydrate himself.

Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland said he will recommend that Wang pay for the cost of the rescue, which he estimated would be around $1,200 to $1,300, including the cost of overtime and mileage on the officers’ cruisers. 

Kneeland noted that Wang was also lucky he was not far from the trail – had he made it 12 or 14 miles into his 35-mile trek, it is possible he could have ended up in an area with little to no cell phone reception, and have been in potentially lethal trouble.

While Kneeland said most hikers who go out in the winter are experienced enough to bring proper equipment, a winter hiking trip can quickly turn bad. He pointed to the recent death of Jack Holden, a 26-year-old Massachusetts hiker who was found dead on the Bondcliff Trail on Christmas Day.

Holden had enough experience and equipment to attempt the Bondcliff Trial, but his itinerary – taking on three 4,000-footers and 22 miles of trail – was ambitious, Kneeland said. The hiker had told his parents by text message earlier on Christmas Eve he would be home by 11 p.m. Officials believe the weather turned wet that night, a challenge Holden would have had to face as night fell and temperatures dropped. His body was found at 8 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Fish and Game recommends hikers follow the “Hiker Responsibility Code,” found at www.hikesafe.com. In addition to setting out with the right equipment and knowledge, hikers should know when to turn back in instances of unexpected weather conditions or fatigue. In emergencies, such as an injury or severe weather conditions hikers should know how to rescue themselves, the site states.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)