Family hikes past warning signs, calls for rescue on Huntington Ravine

  • A challenging climb on the Huntington Ravine trail, which ascends Mount Washington. Flickr user logicalrealist—Creative Commons

Monitor staff
Published: 7/13/2017 5:31:56 PM

The U.S. Forest Service placed signs at two entrances to a challenging Mount Washington trail alerting hikers to its potential dangers, but not everyone heeds the warning.

A Pennsylvania family called 911 about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to report that they were stuck on a steep section of the Huntington Ravine trail. Christopher Belles, 31, of Pittston, Pa., and his mother, 54-year-old Mary Ann Maxfield of Dallas, Pa., were hiking with her two younger children, ages 10 and 12, according to the Fish and Game Department.

“The group reached a point where they felt it was unsafe to attempt to go up or try to descend, so they called 911 for help,” Fish and Game wrote in a statement.

Before the three Fish and Game officers and one volunteer from Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue could make contact with the group – accessing them from the trailhead on the Mount Washington Auto Road – the family called 911 again “stating that they had made it to the top of the ravine and no longer required assistance.”

The responders continued their effort undaunted, however, “due to approaching darkness and low visibility on the summit.” They met up with the family near the auto road about 15 minutes after the second call and drove the group back down to Pinkham Notch, where their hike began.

“Belles had completed this hike several times before in the past and thought he could guide his mother and younger siblings through this difficult trail,” Fish and Game wrote in a statement. “In the process, the group noticed the signs placed by the USFS earlier in the season warning hikers how difficult the trail was and to turn around if they were not prepared for the ‘most difficult trail in the White Mountains.’ They decided to continue on despite the warning.”

Fish and Game wrote that the signs were posted following “several incidents over the past few years” when hikers underestimated the difficulty of the Huntington Ravine trail, which is at least a 7.5-mile round trip with 4,200 feet of elevation gain.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)

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