Scout Skills Help Lost Hiker Survive
By DAVID TIRRELL-WYSOCKI,
Scott Mason, of Halifax, Mass., headed up the popular mountain for a long day hike on Saturday, but decided to take a shortcut down after spraining his ankle. He chose a route he had discussed with the staff at the Appalachian Mountain Club lodge where he began his hike. "They had information that it was clear at the time," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. But that emergency route led him into unexpected trouble: rising water and deep snow caused by unseasonably warm weather. "When I got down there, the rivers were much more rapid than should have been," he said. He decided instead to cross earlier than he had planned, putting him in an area of no trails. Wearing plastic bags inside his boots to keep his feet dry, he began trying to find a way out. Mason said even though he was stranded, he wasn't lost because he had hiked the area before and recognized the landmarks. He sank several times into mountain runoff that was hidden beneath waist-deep snow. "The runoff was about 2 1/2 feet deep and probably running 30 mph," he said. "The guides confirmed I could have gotten sucked in if I had fallen all the way in, and I would have been gone." Saturday and Sunday nights, Mason crawled beneath snow-covered pine trees and hunkered down in a bivvy sack, a waterproof sleeping bag shell. To keep warm, he started fires with a hand sanitzer gel. "You can put it right on what you are burning, and even on the snow you can make a fire," he said. "I was able to make a fire just because I ripped down some big evergreen branches." By Sunday afternoon, his snow-covered route down still blocked by raging runoff, Mason decided he had to go back up the mountain. On Monday, he tried signaling a helicopter, waving his hiking poles and reflective bivvy sack. But the crew was focused below his level, more concerned that he might have tried to take a trail across a river and been swept away. "It was a little disappointing," he said. He found a large crevice in a rock that night that was partially protected from the wind, built a higher windscreen with rocks and slept until well after daylight Tuesday, when he resumed his slow trek toward the summit to reach the weather observatory. "I was going to hike to the observatory and kind of knock on their door and try to get some hot cocoa and a ride down," he said. That's when he and a search team spotted each other. The rescuers give him a ride down the 6,288-foot mountain Tuesday morning into the waiting arms of his parents, sister and aunt. Mason thanked rescuers who endured the treacherous conditions to look for him. "Anyone can go through the ice into an underground stream," he said. "They were risking their lives to try to save me."
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