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'Treacherous' weather in White Mountains leaves one hiker dead, others in need of rescue

A screenshot of a video clip posted by New Hampshire Fish and Game shows a group of rescuers in dark, snowy conditions
NH Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division and Operation Game Thief
The above image comes from a video posted on a New Hampshire Fish and Game Facebook page Monday morning. The agency said it shows the conditions during the Saturday night rescue mission.

A hiker from Massachusetts died after being rescued by conservation officers Saturday evening, amid a blast of winter weather that prompted a series of distress calls in the White Mountains.

New Hampshire Fish and Game officials described the conditions Saturday into Sunday along the high peaks of the Presidential Range as “treacherous,” with wind gusts topping 80 mph. Snow, sleet and ice were also widespread.

Around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Fish and Game officials received a call from the wife of 53-year-old Xi Chen, of Andover, who said her husband texted that he needed assistance.

A team from Fish and Game as well as Mountain Rescue Services located Chen, who was hypothermic and unresponsive, on the Gulfside Trail near Mount Clay at 10:38 p.m. Officials said Chen was carried to the top of Mount Washington and transported to Androscoggin Valley Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Fish and Game officials said the forecast called for winter-like weather at higher elevations but that “was not heeded by many hikers.”

“Several found themselves unprepared for the dangerous conditions above tree line, and instead of turning back or bailing out to safer elevations, they continued on and ultimately called 911 expecting a rescue,” the agency wrote in a statement.

The agency further cautioned that “sometimes having enough gear is not enough," and in weather conditions like those seen this weekend, "it is better to descend and get out of the wind and cold instead of pushing on until it is too late.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.
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