Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fury of Mount Washington

McDONALD BARR
August 1986
By Nicholas Howe
A QUESTION OF LIFE OR DEATH

I edited some details out for improved pacing. For the actual article in its intended form, click here: http://www.ohcroo.com/pdf/spring2001.pdf

Don was acquainted with the White Mountains. He’d taken Tavis
on a hike up the Southern Peaks and they’d stayed at Mizpah and
Lakes of the Clouds Huts. Planning for family hikes was careful
and enjoyable. They began thinking about this year’s White Mountain
hike before they went west, and while plans were afoot Don called the
AMC to see which one of their huts would have room for a party of
three on the night of August twenty-fourth. Madison Hut
would, and he made the reservations. Heather Barr was in Germany
that summer.

The three would be Don and Tavis Barr and Christian
Steiber, a German exchange student living with friends of the Barrs.
Don and Tavis didn’t know him very well, but he was added to the
roster so he could see another part of American life before he
went home. Don was fifty-two, Tavis was thirteen, and
Christian was sixteen. They got an early start from Brookline
on the twenty-fourth and reached the parking lot at the
beginning of the Valley Way Trail at about noon. Don knew
that the weather report was not promising, and he and the
boys got their gear organized under lowering clouds.

Up on the heights, the weather was treacherous. On the
twenty-third, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded
mild southwest winds in the teens and 20s rising to a peak
gust of 53 a little after 6:30 P.M., but the temperature ranged
from 47 (degrees) down to 39 (degrees). This is the kind of
summer weather that can presage trouble for hikers who
confuse August in the valleys with August on the Presidential
Range. In fact, it was on August 24, 1938, that Joe Caggiano
died near Madison Hut, and on August 23, 1952, Raymond
Davis hiked across the range to his death above Tuckerman
Ravine.

On the twenty-fourth, the summit observatory recorded a
wind moving steadily into the northwest with a morning
average in the 50 mph range. This is a veering wind and it’s a
good sign; an old sailor’s adage promises ,”Veering is clearing.”
My father always called it a northwest clear-off, a
promise so eagerly awaited that my generation saved time by
calling it an NWCO. This was not the pattern that was
developing this day.

Given the late start and the poor weather, the prudent
approach would be to stay on the Valley Way, which provides
the shortest, easiest and most sheltered route to the hut; in fact,
it stays below the crest of the ridge and also below timberline
until about 100 yards from the door. Then Don and the boys
could see what the next day brought; and even if the weather
went against them, they’d have a wide choice of trails back to
the parking lot where their car was. They wouldn’t get to the
summit of Madison, but it would still be a fine and memorable hike.
The three of them talked this over and Don decided to stick with the
Watson Path.

Remembering the day, Tavis says, “It wasn’t raining, but just
kind of humid, but in almost a nice way, a blanketing kind of
humidity. It wasn’t very steep and it was very pretty.”

The Brookside runs close to the brook and becomes
more of a scramble. Soon the trail turns away from the brook at
Salmacis Rock and becomes steep and rough. The Watson
Path enters from the right on a short and almost flat connection from
the Valley Way, and Don Barr’s group could have taken this sheltered
trail better suited to the day, but they didn’t.

The Lower Bruin departs on the right for another chance to join
the Valley Way, and the Watson Path bears away left. Don Barr turned left.

So far, the hike was a damp but enjoyable riparian reverie,
but then everything changed. The Watson Path is a misleading choice.
The contour lines on the AMC trail map do show that it’s the steepest
of the alternatives to the Valley Way, but the 100-foot contour
interval is necessarily an average calculation and it does not show
that the steepness comes in clumps and the footing is much rougher than
any of the neighboring trails. The climb out of Snyder Ravine is the price
hikers pay for the gentle walk along the old logging road down below; it’s
an exhausting and frustrating grind, and not often chosen for a repeat visit.

By now it was mid-afternoon and on Mount Washington
the wind was in the 70 mph range; the summit temperature
dropped from 49 (degrees) early in the morning to 32
(degrees) at noon, it held steady at freezing all afternoon, and
the heights were in the clouds with intermittent rain.
Conditions at Madison Hut were not much better: afternoon temperature
sank into the 30s, the wind was in the 50-60 range, and there was a
harsh driving rain. Hikers arriving at the hut were severely chilled
and their numbers climbed into the forties as prudent people caught
above timberline on the range made for shelter. The numbers rose to
the hut’s capacity of fifty and the hut crew kept busy warming them
and watching for hypothermia.

Don Barr and the two boys kept scrambling upward over the steep terrain
with its loose stones and root traps, a tough piece of work under the
best of circumstances and a severe test in the rain and cold. About
three miles after leaving the parking lot they reached timberline and a
stretch of peculiarly discouraging terrain; there’s a hump that looks
like the summit, then three more crests and then another hump, each of
which brings false hope. By now, hikers are wondering if there’s ever
going to be an end to it. Tavis says, “I don’t think the map showed
where timberline was. So we looked at the map and saw one major topo-
graphical bulge before the summit and then the summit and then the hut
on the other side. So we looked and we figured, Okay, this is the first
bulge and the next one will be the summit.” To make matters worse, the
trail leads over large angular rocks that tend to shift and tilt underfoot.

Madison Hut is open from early June to early September
with a crew of four. The line up had changed on this late-summer day.
Liz Keuffel had been the hutmaster, but she left just the day before to
return to her teaching job for the academic season; Emily Thayer had
been assistant hutmaster, so this was her first day in charge.

Emily had finished her junior year at Middlebury College in Vermont,
this was her fourth summer working for the AMC, and she’d reached her
full strength at 5' 8".

Lars Jorrens, Alexei Rubenstein had been on the Madison crew all summer
with Emily. Kari Geick had just arrived that day to
bring the numbers up to strength in the absence of Liz
Keuffel. Emily kept looking out the windows at the dark swirling mist
on every side and wondering about people who were out on the range.

Emily knew about bad weather on the range. During one
of her childhood summers a throng of relatives set out from
Whitefield to climb Mt. Jefferson. They started up the Caps
Ridge Trail, which is the express route of the Northern Peaks;
it starts at the 3,000-foot high point on the Jefferson Notch
road and runs straight up the ridge 2.4 miles to the 5,715-
foot summit of Jefferson, a delightful climb, but one that’s
studded with the steep rocks of the “caps” and runs above
timberline for most of its length.

The weather went bad when they were near the top of Mt.
Jefferson and the grown-ups decided that rather than go back
down through the weather on the difficult trail they’d come
up, it would be better to march the family troop down the
summit cone of Jefferson and on up to the summit of
Mount Washington so they could take the cog railway down.
A family photo album preserves the image of Emily sitting in
the summit hotel, twelve years old, soaking wet, and glumly
reflecting that the celebrated wisdom of grown-ups might not
be all it’s cracked up to be.

Now, eight years after that stormy day on the range, Emily
turned on the radio to hear the regular 2:00 P.M. call from
AMC headquarters in Pinkham Notch. Hut crews take turns
cooking on a daily rotation and this was Emily’s turn, all huts
have a reservation list so they can plan their meals, and the
2:00 P.M. call provides news of late cancellations or late
additions that will require adjustments in the kitchen. This
day the call did not include any cancellations and Emily had
an immediate thought, almost a reflex: “We’re going to be
going out — we’re going to be going out.” That is, they’d
have to answer a call from distressed hikers.

It seemed to Emily that there had been an unusual number
of emergency calls that summer. Twisted ankles and tired
hikers are a matter of course and crews take them in stride, but
extra dimensions had been added this summer. There was, for
instance, the German shepherd. One day a man came in
and said that his dog couldn’t walk anymore out on the Parapet Trail.

The Parapet is nasty piece of work. It was cut in 1951 to
provide a foul-weather route around the summit cone of Mt.
Madison and the 0.7-mile length leads over large angular
boulders and through dense dwarf spruce growth. When the
1951 trail crew got through, it was so difficult to negotiate
that the Madison Hut crew thought it must be a rough draft,
a sketch to be refined and finished later. It was never refined,
and Emily’s crew loaded the dog into a litter and spent a very
unpleasant time hauling it back to the hut. The hut crew had to take
care of the dog for three days while the owner went to the valley to
look into other arrangements. Finally the dog got a ride down in
the cargo net slung below a regularly scheduled supply helicopter.

So 1986 rescue demands on the Madison crew had been
heavy, unusual, and not necessarily rewarding. Now, on the
afternoon of August twenty-fourth, the people who’d been
hiking across the range from the Lakes of the Clouds Hut
began coming in. The wind was gaining in strength and they
were cold and wet and almost everything they had with them
was soaked, so the crew kept busy getting them supplied with
warm drinks and putting them into whatever dry clothes
could be found; the crew dug into their own reserves of
clothing and Emily even contributed her favorite original
Chuck Roast fleece jacket, which she never got back.

August twenty-fourth also brought a new crew member to
Madison. Kari Geick was an equestrienne of very considerable
achievement. After college she spent four years with the
biology department at Tufts University working in animal
behavior; then she decided it was time for a career change and
planned to relocate in Colorado. After she left Tufts she went to the
AMC headquarters in Pinkham and asked if they had any
openings for end-of-season fill-ins to round out her summer. Liz Keuffel
had just left the Madison crew that day so Kari was hired on the spot and
she went right on around to Randolph and hiked up the
Valley Way with Emily Thayer.

Late in the same afternoon, Stephanie Arenalas showed up
at the hut. She’d worked for the AMC the previous two
summers, but she was not on the roster this summer, so she’d come to the
mountains to pay a surprise visit to her friend Liz Keuffel at
Madison.

Stephanie hiked up the Madison Gulf Trail, which rises
from the bottom of Great Gulf south of the hut and provides
the most difficult of all direct approaches to the hut. It’s
strenuous in good weather but this day the trail was more like a brook
bed and the top section was steep water-soaked ledges, so Stephanie reached
the hut exhausted, wet to the skin, and severely chilled. Then
she learned that Liz had just left. Stephanie knew the ropes, so, in
the time-honored tradition of the huts, she stayed to lend a
hand.

Don Barr and the boys were still pushing up the Watson
Path. Timberline is about 4,000 feet here, with another 1,363
feet to the summit of Madison. The northwest wind was
blowing straight onto the ridge and its violence was heightened by
the topography: they were climbing the northernmost
ridge of the Presidential Range, the terrain turns a corner here,
and a northwest wind starts into the long accelerating venturi
of Pinkham Notch. Tavis says, “At that point it might have
dropped thirty degrees and the winds became a lot faster. It
was a little breezy as we were getting up to the timberline but
all of a sudden there were the fastest winds I’ve ever been in. I
was out in a hurricane in Boston and the winds on Mt.
Madison were faster than that.” Don’s group was not prepared
for this; they had long pants, hats, sweaters and light jackets,
but no real protection against heavy weather, and the bare
rocks gave them no protection at all.

“We were in the clouds and we kept pushing on,” says
Tavis, “because we thought we were almost there the whole
time, we kept seeing these bulges and, ‘Okay, maybe that’s it.’
You get this series and each one you think, ‘Well, that’s it, we
know the hut’s right on the other side.’ So that’s why we
didn’t turn back.”

There was still a chance for an easy escape. A little more
than halfway up this discouraging summit climb, the Pine
Link Trail crosses the Watson Path at a right angle. The Pine
Link is almost level here and it continues level and then
descends slightly to the hut. Tavis says, “We debated taking
that and then decided we were probably close enough anyway
that we should just go over the summit and get to the hut,
that that would be faster. At that point we were basically
guessing where we were based on the topographical markers,
and we were wrong about where we were.”

Tavis remembered that his father had said where the
timberline would be. But it turned out that his calculation was
about 300 feet too high, and this is revealing. Timberline averages
4,000 feet all around the range, but it varies with several factors.
One factor is exposure, and timberline on the northwest shoulder of
Madison is lower than Don expected because the weather is
harsher here than in most places, and harsher than he expected.

Don and the boys kept pushing on toward the top, but
they were going slower and slower and stopping more and
more often. Tavis says, “We didn’t have any backup clothing,
we had T-shirts and sweaters and windbreakers. I didn’t carry
along a hat and dad actually gave me his hat and then it blew
right off my head.”

Tavis was only thirteen, but he was already taller than his
father and notably slender. Christian had a hood on
his jacket, he had a solid athletic frame, and he seemed to be
managing the conditions fairly well, so he told Don and Tavis
that he was going on ahead and he disappeared in the fog.
Now the cold rain was in their faces and Tavis tried to wrap
his hands in a bandanna, but it didn’t work very well. He also
realized that his father had changed, he was panting in a way
that he’d never seen before.

Tavis also remembered a video his grammar school class was
shown before they went on a hiking trip. “It was on hypothermia
and I remembered that at a certain point you stop
realizing that you’re cold. And I think that’s just about when
my dad got to that point. I wasn’t at that point yet. I had
started to go numb, but I was quite aware of my condition. At
that point he had difficulty walking or moving. I was kind of
the unsteady you are when you’re drunk. I could maybe not
run in the straightest line, but I could run.” Finally Tavis saw
a cluster of trail signs — he’d reached the top. His father was
about twenty feet behind him so he went back to tell him. All
his father said was, “Oh, good.”

“We got past the summit together, my dad was at the
summit, but not for much after that. By that time we realized
that it was really too late. We both knew we were hypothermic, by
the time we were at the summit it really was the fastest
way to go straight to the hut, but it was just too late. He was
still lucid enough to know. I think we stopped for just a
second to look around and that’s just about when his lips were
going white. That was the sign that he was really in bad
shape. I knew I was in bad shape, I could feel it, but I was still
— I would say drunk, but lucid.”

There was no lingering on the summit of Madison. “My
dad was pushing on. If I reminded him that he was hypothermic
and needed to keep pushing on, he would say, ‘Oh, yeah,
I need to do this.’ And I just kept saying, ‘We need to keep
going — we need to keep going.’ He kept trying, and there
was a point at which he just visibly couldn’t walk anymore.
He found a crevice and covered himself up as best he could,
and at that point I just started running.”

The summit of Madison is not a sharp peak like neighboring
Adams, it’s more of a short narrow ridge with the trail
running just off the crest. Tavis sensed that the storm would
get worse before it got better, “but it was so painfully obvious
that there was nothing that I could do. He was trying very
hard to walk and he couldn’t. My choices were either to stay
there with him or move on and I didn’t really see any benefit
in staying there with him. There wasn’t — I couldn’t really
— I didn’t have anything to give him.”

Down at the hut, dinner was almost ready and yet another
group of hikers straggled in. They were soaking wet and they
were beyond cold, they had the slurred speech and muddled
thinking of hypothermia, so the crew put them into their own
bunks in the crew room and made them drink fresh-brewed
liquid Jello — the sugar and heat of the dessert is a favorite
restorative with hut crews.

It was now 6:00 P.M. and the crew turned their attentions
to serving dinner to a full house of hikers; actually, a bit more
than a full house. They got everyone seated and just as the
soup was going out to the dining room the kitchen door burst
open and Christian Steiber lurched in.

Kari Geick was surprised, the weather was so nasty that she
couldn’t get over how anyone would think it was a good day
for a hike. Christian was very much reduced and he tried to
tell them urgent news, but it was difficult to learn much
about the situation because he had a heavy German accent and
imperfect English, and he was further choked by fatigue and
cold. The crew did understand that there were two people
behind him and going slowly, but they didn’t learn how far
away they were, how bad their condition was, or even what
trail they were on. Trails approach Madison Hut like spokes
aimed at a hub and the crew guessed the people were on the
Osgood Ridge because that’s the only major trail that
approaches on the kitchen-door side of the hut. So they got
Christian out of his wet clothes and into a crewroom bunk to
warm up, and then they waited for a little while.

Here, too, there were complicating factors. The need for
help is subjective and it’s liable to misreading. For instance,
earlier that summer a woman came in to one of the other huts
and reported that her mother was out on the range and having
chest pains. This is an automatic danger signal and the crew
started up the trail at a fast clip. When they reached the
afflicted woman, it turned out that the shoulder straps on her
pack were too tight.

The crew waited for a few minutes to see if anyone would
come in after the German boy, but no one did. Then she told Lars
to make up a pack of useful gear and see if he could find anyone
on the Osgood Trail. Lars pulled on as much wool and polypropylene
as he had, then a hat and rain jacket with a drawstring hood, and he
put his mittens in his pack along with a blanket and extra clothes.
He took the high-band radio and Thermos bottles filled with hot Jello,
and at 6:15 P.M. he started up the Osgood Trail toward the
summit of Madison.

Lars was twenty-two years old, he’d been hiking in the New
Hampshire mountains since he was seven, he was six feet tall and
155 pounds, and after a summer of packing loads up to Madison Hut
he was exceptionally fit and strong. Now he found Tavis Barr on the
Osgood Trail about 500 feet from the hut.

Topography is important here. Timberline is not a precise
location, it’s more like a zone, and Madison Hut sits in an
open field of rock and grass and moss that’s inside a ring of
scrub growth that protects the lowest part of the trail for about
350 feet above the hut. Tavis was sitting on a rock just above
the top of the scrub growth.

The boy was completely exposed to the wind and driving
sleet. He was cold but he was coherent, and he told Lars that
his father was farther up the trail. Lars asked him how his
father was getting along and Tavis said he didn’t exactly
know. Tavis remembers that Lars had quite a number of things
with him, and when the hutman tried to give him some
warmer gear, he said, “No, my dad’s going to need them more
than I do.” He did take some hot Jello and a pair of gloves,
but Lars couldn’t learn much more about Don except that he’d
been going slower and slower and Tavis thought his father
was dying up there and he came on ahead to find help.

Lars judged that Tavis was certainly uncomfortable but not
in serious trouble at the moment, and he asked the boy if he
could hang in there for a while longer. Then he tried to tuck
him into a bit more sheltered position in the rocks and started
up the trail. Lars judged the wind to be about 60 mph and
the fog had cut visibility to seventy-five feet. Tavis hadn’t said
how far up his father was, but Lars was familiar with the
terrain, it was his summer backyard, so he made a fast climb
even though the gusty tailwind knocked him down several
times. It got noticeably colder as he came closer to the summit
and the rain turned to sleet and added a sandblast effect to the
misery.

Don Barr was lying in the middle of the trail on the near
end of that short summit ridge, he was in a short level place in
the trail that gave no protection at all from the wind and he
was in very poor condition. Lars couldn’t tell if he’d fallen or
if he simply lay down, but he was only semi-conscious and
mumbling incoherently and he didn’t seem to understand
what Lars said to him. Don’s condition had put him beyond
reason and he resisted Lars’ efforts to help him; he’d stiffen up
and try to protect his body, and he wouldn’t take the hot Jello
and he wouldn’t let Lars put any clothes on him. Lars tried to
drag him and he tried to roll him, but he couldn’t move Don
at all. Lars tried to get through to him, he put his face right
down with him and tried to talk to him, but Don barely
registered the presence of his Samaritan, he’d just groan.

In fact, Lars could hardly manage the extra clothes himself.
Don was wearing jeans and a light jacket and they were
soaked, so Lars immediately started to pull extra gear out of his
pack and the first thing was a hat. The wind tore it out of his
hands and sent it spinning away toward the valley.

Lars did not have a large supply of emergency equipment:
“I didn’t have a tent or anything, no sleeping bag. I brought a
blanket to warm somebody if they were moving — I didn’t
anticipate that the guy would be lying down and not able to
do anything. What we understood was that they were coming
along and I was just bringing up a Thermos of hot Jello,
which is always a good thing. I had a flashlight and a blanket
and some extra clothes — I just ran out the door hoping I
could get these folks in, so I wasn’t equipped to deal with
somebody that couldn’t move.”

This is always the difficult choice: to wait for a while in
hopes of getting more information and making a better informed
rescue, or to go out as quickly as possible and see what can be
done. Reports of trouble are often fragmentary and vague, the
trouble might be a twisted ankle or a heart attack, and Christian
had given the hut crew very little to go on.

By now it was 6:45 P.M. and the situation was critical and
moving quickly to lethal. The wind was rising into the 70-80
range and sleet was mixing with the driving rain; the Northern
Peaks were smothered in dense storm clouds. Then more bad luck joined
the emergency: the radio Lars had with him was not on the
same wavelength as the radio at the hut.

When Lars left the hut he took the high-band radio, and
after he’d done everything he could for Don Barr he pulled it
out of his pack to call Pinkham and heard an urgent conversation
already going on. Two hikers had been overtaken by the
storm on the flanks of Mount Washington, they were above
timberline and somewhere between Oakes Gulf and Boott
Spur, but they were well-equipped and they did the smart
thing, they pitched their small mountaineering tent in a
sheltered spot, battened down the hatches, and settled
themselves to wait for better weather.

These hikers were overdue on their planned arrival and this
had been noted, so search parties were deployed and Lars could
hear them talking to each other. In fact, the whole hut system
was listening. The eight AMC huts are spaced about a day’s
hike apart and Peter Benson was listening from Zealand, three
huts away at the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Jennifer Botzow was hutmaster at Lonesome Lake at the far
end of the chain and she could hear the exchanges clearly.
Suddenly she heard someone break into the talk on Mount
Washington. “This is Lars on top of Madison,” he said, “this is
an emergency.” Jennifer could also hear the wind roaring
around him.

Peter Crane heard him down at headquarters in Pinkham
Notch. It was 6:55 P.M. and the main building was filled
with the hubbub of a full house at dinner. Peter was carrying a
high-band radio and he heard the call from Lars, but the
message was indistinct. The problem was not in the electronics,
it was in the air; his words were masked by the blast of the
wind, but Peter understood that there was trouble on Madison.
In keeping with his careful nature, he began a log on the evening.

Peter was one of the ranking veterans on the Presidential
Range. He had done extensive work with the AMC and that summer was
on the “Notch Watch,” one of two people detailed in 24-hour shifts
to deal with problems that might arise in the valley operation or
emergencies on the heights.

Peter brought more than wide experience to the job; he
was also a person of remarkable calm. Now Lars said that he’d
done all he could for Don Barr, he said he couldn’t move him,
that he’d tried to drag him and even roll him, but the man
just stiffened up and it wasn’t working at all.

Hut crews are housekeepers, not ambulance personnel, and
Lars was not feeling very confident, but after just a few
exchanges on the radio he felt stronger. “Peter was great. I
remember his voice being very calm and that was Peter — he
was very good for this kind of situation. I summarized the
situation and said there was nothing more here, but there’s this
kid down below and he is still able to move, from what I can
see, and I think we need to get him in, and then maybe we can
come back up and try to get this guy down the hill, but I
can’t do it myself. Peter said, ‘You make the call. We don’t
want to lose you up there — you do what you can.’ He asked
if I could move him and I said I couldn’t.” Peter told him to
shelter Don as well as he could and get back down to the hut
for reinforcements.

Then Peter asked Lars if the low-band radio at the hut was
switched on so he could speak to the crew there, and Lars said
that he didn’t think it was. This was not a mistake; those old
units were in semi-retirement and it was not standard practice
to leave them on. At this point Emily and her crew had only
the sketchy news brought by Christian Steiber and the
situation might be relatively easy — a man was a little way
back on the trail and Lars could take care of him with hot
Jello, a blanket, a helping hand, and an encouraging presence.

When Peter finished his talk with Lars on Mt. Madison he
called the weather observatory on the summit of Mount
Washington and asked them to try to raise the Madison crew
on the observatory’s low-band radio, but the summit could not
establish contact. Immediately after this, at 7:00 P.M., Lars
called Peter again and said that he could not find any place
nearby that offered more shelter than the one Don was in, and
that he hadn’t been able to move him anyway. He emphasized
that Don was shaking and convulsive.

Peter understood that they had a dangerous emergency on
their hands and the moment Lars’ call ended he called the
Androscoggin Valley Hospital, eighteen miles from the Valley
Way parking lot. The AVH staff is familiar with mountain
emergencies, so Peter brought them up to date on the Madison
situation and asked them to stand by, and they advised him on
treating Don.

That call was at 7:10 and at 7:15 Peter called Frank
Hubbell at SOLO, an organization thirty miles south of
Pinkham Notch that specializes in training emergency
personnel. He got the machine so left a message. Then he
called the Mountain Rescue Service in North Conway; he
didn’t know how many AMC staff would be available for
emergency duty and he wanted to put MRS on standby.

Peter also called Troop F of the state police and asked them
to engage the Fish and Game unit responsible for the area.
Carl Carlson of Fish and Game called back at 7:25 and said
that he was putting additional necessary people in the loop.
Peter called Forest Service men stationed on the northern flank
of Mt. Madison and Mike Pelchat, the state of New Hampshire’s
manager of its interests on the summit of Mount Washington who
made further calls. All that was done by 7:35.

Meanwhile, Janet Morgan was organizing a team of AMC
staff in Pinkham Notch. They had warm clothing, rain gear,
heat packs, Thermoses, and headlamps with extra batteries,
and they also had oxygen to be administered by Brad Ray, the
Forest Service ranger in Tuckerman Ravine and a veteran of
thirty years of mountain emergencies. Finally, Peter impressed
the nature of the situation on the AMC crew, he reminded
them of the first rule of search and rescue: that they could not
help the victim of a life-threatening emergency if they became
victims themselves.

Up at Madison Hut, Lars didn’t come back and he didn’t
come back and Emily was thinking, “Oh man — what is
going on?” The Osgood Path rises directly from the hut to the
summit, Lars was young and strong and he had good clothes,
but as night came on the conditions were so severe on top of
Mt. Madison that he was barely able to get back down
himself. The wind was in the 70s and gusting into the 80s
and it was right in his face. His body did not obey thought, it
obeyed cold and wind, and Lars staggered and lurched down
the summertime trail he knew so well until he found Tavis.

“He hadn’t moved, obviously he was stuck and he was
getting pretty incoherent. I thought, ‘Alright, I’ve got to try
get him in. It isn’t that far to the hut, so give it a try.’ I stood
him up and I tried to move him but we were getting pushed
over, flattened, and we’d be flopping around and I’d try to get
him up again. He was very stiff, he was not helping much at
all at that point, kind of a dead weight or even worse than
that, he was a sort of resisting weight.” Lars wasn’t sure of
Tavis’ mental state, “His speech was slurred and I guess he
recognized that I came back down alone and he asked ‘How’s
my dad?’ and I said we’re going to go back up and get him.”

Lars got back to the hut at 7:40. He went in through the
kitchen door and found Emily and said, “We’ve got to talk —
there’s something serious going on out there.” The kitchen
and the dining room and the crew room were all crowded
with people and Emily didn’t want everyone in the hut
overhearing what Lars had to say, so she hustled him and
Alexei down the aisle between the dining room tables and out
the dining room door and into the dingle that serves as a wind
break, a dank shelter with the space of two telephone booths.
Lars said, “There’s a guy dying up there.” He used a strong
intensifier and this all happened so fast that Emily hadn’t
pulled the door shut behind them. She shot him a warning
glance as she latched the dining room door and at the same
time she said to herself, “Oh my god — we’ve got a major
thing going on here.”

The dingle didn’t provide much shelter, so Emily had a
hurried conference out there. Alexei was hopeful; he hadn’t
been out in the storm and he didn’t quite believe it could be
that bad. The crew had been out in some pretty bad weather
that summer and his feeling was, “Come on, are you sure we
can’t go out there?” Lars was pessimistic about Don Barr’s
chances and he hadn’t been able to move Tavis along either,
but the boy was much nearer the hut and in better condition,
so that was the priority. By now the guests knew something
was going wrong and several of them said they were ready to
go out and help, but Emily didn’t think she could put any of
the guests at peril out in the storm.

Lars called Pinkham from the hut and the connection was
still poor, but Peter Crane got more information about the
situation on the summit. He learned that there was another
person about a tenth of a mile from the hut who was also
hypothermic, but could probably walk if he was strengthened
against the high winds and slippery footing. Peter backed up
Emily’s plan that two or three people should help this second
person down to the hut. Lars was used up and Emily was
needed to keep things moving in the hut and to oversee the
developing situation out in the storm, so Alexei and Kari were
the ones to go. They’d take chocolate bars, more clothes, and
hot Jello, and do everything they could to bring Tavis in.

Alexei had just graduated from high school, he was 6’1"
and after a summer at Madison his lean and rangy frame was
almost a twin to Lars. Kari was 5’3" and slender, but her many
years of riding and the requirements of handling 2,000-
pound thoroughbreds made her much stronger than her small
presence might suggest.

Kari and Alexei left the pots and pans for other hands to
finish and got ready for the storm. Kari put on all the pile
clothing she had, then wind gear, a hat and gloves, and an
extra jacket; then she and Alexei made up a pack with
reinforcements for Tavis and took their turn in the storm.
There was still enough daylight in the clouds for them to see,
but the air was a maelstrom of stinging sleet and the battering
wind was still gaining strength. About 500 feet from the hut
they spotted Tavis sitting on the rock. He was not on the trail
as Lars said he would be, he was a ways off to one side and they
were lucky to spot him.

Tavis was so badly chilled that he had difficulty talking,
his speech was slow and slurred and Kari remembers that all he
said clearly was, “My dad’s up there — my dad needs help.”
Kari felt it was important to stay positive and she said, “We
came to help you. You need help now and we came to help
you.” They got extra clothes and mittens on him, and even
though he was having difficulty swallowing they got some
warm Jello into him.

Looking back on that night, Kari says, “He had pretty
much seized up by that time and he was very, very cold. The
winds were very high, it was right around dusk, it was right
around freezing and it was raining. The rain was beginning to
freeze on the rocks.

“Tavis couldn’t walk. Alexei and I could sometimes get on
either side of him and haul him along and we did a lot of
pushing and pulling and hauling. We kept saying, ‘We’ve
got to keep moving, Tavis, we’ve got to keep moving.’ Up on
the rocks he would literally get blown over, so we tried to
keep a low profile. He didn’t have the strength to stand up,
anyway.”

At first they were out on large, rough and exposed rocks,
then the trail entered the scrub. “It was better down out of the
wind. We could be on either side of him as much as possible
and we tried to get him to walk, but he had extreme cramps in
his legs.”

As Alexei remembers, “It was difficult to figure out a method
of bringing him down, aside from picking him up and putting him on
our backs, because he wasn’t able to move very well. His legs seemed
almost paralyzed, almost like cerebral palsy.

“So we were trying to encourage him. It was kind of
sliding and it was very messy, me pulling on his legs and Kari
pushing him from the back, skidding him along.” They
bumped and scraped on the rocks and tried not to get lost
themselves because they had to go where the rocks and wind
would let them go rather than where they thought the trail
was. Then the terrain finally eased a bit and they got Tavis up
on his feet, but he could not stay steady.

It was almost dark, and in the ruthless conditions even the
best intentions and surest orientation might not be enough to
avoid moving with the pressure of the wind, which would
take them across the slope and away from the hut, but the
light from the windows was a lighthouse in the fog. The
Osgood Trail leads north of the hut, so they cut across the
clearing and headed for the kitchen door. Alexei was new to
this. “It’s August and I didn’t maybe think it was a life or
death thing, you have this concept that it’s summer and he’s
pretty close to the hut, it’s no big deal, but you have this
winter storm...”

Lars was worried, he knew what it was like out there and it
seemed to him that they were taking a long time for the short
distance they had to go. “After a while I was beginning to
wonder when they were going to show up. I was full of
adrenaline when I came in, and when I finally stopped and
rested I was pretty cold and shivery and soaked to the bone,
and I wasn’t in any shape to go right back out again.”

Alexei and Kari spent forty minutes moving Tavis that
tenth of a mile back to the hut. Inside, conditions were at full
stretch. The two hikers who came in without reservations
could not be turned away, so the accommodations were two
over capacity at fifty-two and a full dinner had to be served,
cleared away, all the pots and pans and table settings washed
up, and makings for the next day’s breakfast started. There was
wet clothing hanging from every projection and nothing dry
to put on, there was no heat beyond the stray BTUs that
slipped out of the kitchen while the crew was preparing
dinner, and the hut had been buried in supersaturated clouds
all day. The arrival of Christian and Tavis, both in dire need of
restoration, called on an account that had already been fully
spent.

Then Stephanie Arenalas took hold. Tavis was hypothermic
and barely able to speak, he was soaking wet, his muscles were
going into spasm, and he’d been considerably battered as Kari
and Alexei hauled him down over the rocks. Beyond that, his
father was alone in the storm up above the hut and there was
no way of helping him.

Christian was already in one of the bunks, so Stephanie and
another crew member got Tavis out of his wet clothes, dried him
off as well as they could and gave him warm Jello to drink, and
put him into a sleeping bag with blankets over it in that wide
folding daybed. Stephanie knew that Tavis wouldn’t get any
colder, but he wouldn’t warm up very fast either. She knew that
the 98 degrees of heat she could contribute were all they had, so
she stripped down and got into the sleeping bag with him.

The hut was not very comfortable. There used to be a wood
stove in the dining room, but that was gone now and there was no
heat except the propane rings in the kitchen and the natural furnace
of the hikers’ bodies, but the metabolic fires were running at a very
reduced setting and the hut was dank and clammy.

At 8:00 P.M., a team of eighteen people left Pinkham in two
vans to drive around to the Valley Way parking lot and start up
to the hut. Forty-five minutes later Emily called Peter to report
that Tavis was in the hut and being tended to, but he was very
groggy and debilitated.

That left Don Barr alone in the night and the storm. Emily
was in her first day as hutmaster and she was in a tough spot.
The weather was still getting worse at the hut and she knew
by way of the Pinkham radio relay that the Mount Washington
observatory could not promise any relief that night.

On paper, the crew’s main responsibility was the hut, but
this night’s responsibilities were already off the paper. One
consideration was the carry itself. There were only four people
on the hut crew, which is not enough for a litter carry. Emily
knew about that. There’s something about a rescue that fixes
the imagination on heroic carries to safety, so when a call came
to Pinkham during Emily’s rookie summer there, she thought
“Whoo...!” and she was quick to volunteer. It was an easy case,
someone went lame on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail a short
way above Pinkham and that trail is almost as wide and
smooth as a country lane. Emily took her first turn at the carry,
stumbling along without seeing her feet and trying to stay in
step and keep the litter steady and match the level of her grip
to the other carriers and it wasn’t very long before she was
thinking, “Oh man — this really sucks!”

The situation facing her Madison crew was much more
difficult. The guests knew there was a tough situation in their
midst and several of them came up to Emily with offers of
help. They could help with after-dinner housekeeping, but
Emily knew she couldn’t ask them to go outside. She was
thinking of the chaos that could overtake the evening, how
there could be people with all degrees of strength and skill
out on the rocks of the summit cone and no effective way of
keeping track of them or coordinating their work. Even more
to the immediate point, there was hardly a stitch of dry
clothing anywhere in the hut. The storm was still gaining
strength and the hut crew and volunteers alike would be wet
and tired and more prone to hypothermia at the start of the
rescue than anyone should be at the end of it.

At this point, Emily was the only one among the guests
and the crew who hadn’t been out in the storm and she was
also the most experienced among them, which would make
her the best candidate for a rescue team. But at the same time,
she was the hutmaster and she was wondering where her
responsibility really lay. Should she lend her strength and
experience to a rescue effort, or should she stay in the hut to
hold things together there?

By now, Christian had gotten up and he was in the kitchen
having something to eat. Tavis was in bed in the crew room
and he was beginning to recover from his own hypothermia,
he was saying, “Where’s my father — where’s my father?”
Stephanie was still with him, she told him that they were
doing everything they could to help his father, but at the same
time she didn’t want to give him false hopes.

The hut crew was finally all indoors and they knew they
were up against it, they knew they had to talk it over, they had
to decide about McDonald Barr. This led to another problem.
There were people everywhere in the hut, they were finishing
dinner and milling around in the dining room and the bunk
rooms and some were lending a hand cleaning up in the
kitchen. Christian Steiber was in the kitchen, too, and Tavis
was in the crew’s bunk room. So where could Emily gather her
crew for a serious talk?

It was after-dinner hot drink time, so Emily asked a couple
of the helpful guests if they could keep the fixings coming in from
the kitchen; then she called for attention and said that the crew
would be busy for a while and could everyone take turns using the men’s
bathroom.

Then the crew gathered in the women’s bathroom to talk
things over. They knew the Mount Washington weather
observatory had reported no signs of relief on their charts. On
the contrary, the observatory crew said the storm would
probably intensify through the night.

Emily and Lars and Alexei and Kari tried to think the
situation through. Emily thought most about the wind; she
knew it can be raining hard or snowing like crazy and hikers
can still be all right; it fact, they can enjoy it. But it was the
wind — above timberline the wind simply tears away every
defense.

The Madison crew knew that Don Barr was in mortal
danger, but mortal danger was everywhere on the mountain
that night; once out there, everyone would be equally
exposed. Lars remembers, “There was a little bit of bravado —
‘Oh, we can try it — it’s our job, we’re able to do these
things, so let’s give it a shot.’ We’d all been out, though, and I
think we quickly realized that all of us except Emily had just
been out in the weather and we probably wouldn’t be in such
great shape to try again.”

There was also the matter of numbers. Even in the best
circumstances imaginable, even on a walking path in the
valley with fair skies and sweet breezes, the four members of
the Madison crew would have difficulty managing a half-mile
litter carry by themselves. In the cold and dark and rain and
rocks and wind, they would have no chance at all. There was
no shortage of willing help among the guests in the hut, but
they were there to take shelter, not to risk their lives. Beyond
that, taking an unknown and untrained group out on a rescue
brings its own hazards, both physical and ethical. The first
members of the AMC group from Pinkham were already
arriving and the Madison crew had seen them. Lars says, “We
started seeing these folks coming in from Pinkham in various
states of hypothermia themselves and certainly not prepared to
go up on the mountain beyond the hut.”

All these thoughts were in the women’s bathroom and even
though not all of them were said out loud, the hut crew knew
that they’d decided. It was not a debate. Lars remembers, “We
realized at that point we were making decisions to forget any
hope of trying to rescue him or bringing him back alive. We
knew that was weighing over us. But we also knew that it was
ridiculous to try to go up there to get him. The choice had
been made before us.” No one asked for a vote or tried to
persuade anyone else, but they knew that the risk to a rescue
group outweighed the benefit to Don Barr, and Emily
summed it up for them: The danger is too great, our resources
are too small, and we’re not going to go out tonight.

The valley forces were on their way, so at 8:55 Peter Crane
called Emily for another report from the hut. Peter was in a
position to launch the rescue on his own authority, but, as he
says now, “Recognizing that there could be more than one
answer to the question, I asked if a party would be going out
from the hut. It’s very easy for someone in a warm building ten
miles away to ask other people to go out, and names like
Albert Dow come to mind.” Albert was a member of the
volunteer mountain rescue squad based in North Conway, and
four years earlier he’d been killed while trying to help two
teenagers whose inexperience had led them into difficulty.

Peter finishes the thought: “But if those people can actually
feel the buffeting of the wind and the stinging ice pellets and
have to stare out into the dark fog — if they make the
decision that that’s excessive risk for them, then I think we in
our warm places have to respect that decision, even though it
could have grave consequences.” Emily told him the difficult
news of her decision, and he backed her up completely, he said
she should not risk anyone beyond the immediate shelter of
the hut.

Right after this exchange Peter called the AMC personnel
regrouping on the Valley Way. He told them that twelve
should continue up to the hut, stay overnight, and go to work
at first light if conditions allowed. The other six in the mobile
group should return to Pinkham to keep normal operations
going, though that number was considerably below the usual
complement. The group should be divided so the strongest
members would go up to the hut and those with necessary
duties at Pinkham should return. After this conversation, he
called Don Dercole of the Forest Service and brought him up
to date, adding that his personnel might want to stay in the
valley overnight and be ready for an early-morning departure
rather than squeeze into the overcrowded hut. He also called
Carl Carlson at Fish and Game asking for a call-back on the
telephone.

Then Peter called Emily again. The contrast between his
strong experience and his mild presence can be disconcerting,
and he tells of that terrible night in a voice that is hardly more
than a whisper: “There had been more time to reconsider, or
perhaps to wind down a little bit on what had happened thus
far. After that decision was made, that initial decision, they
had the opportunity to rethink, to reconsider, perhaps to have
either more worries go through their head that this was the
right decision or to gain confidence within that decision, so I
asked again if this was something that they still wanted to
follow through with. I indicated that this was a very serious
decision they were making and asked if they wanted to reevaluate
their situation and the weather conditions.” Emily told him that
the situation at the hut had not changed, and they would stay
with their decision.

Meanwhile, the crew was trying to keep Tavis in the
picture, but they were being careful not to give him unrealistic
hopes or unrealistic fears. He understood what they were
doing. “At that point I knew that he was going to die. They
made it sound like, ‘We’ll see if he’s okay,’ but you know, as a
thirteen-year-old kid I thought they were just kind of
delusioned. Now I know they were trying to put a good note
on it, but...”

At 9:30 P.M. Peter called the Mount Washington Observatory
again. They told him that the temperature remained steady at 32
(degrees) with fog, rain, sleet, snow showers, and
maximum visibility of fifty feet; the wind was averaging 79
mph, gusting regularly to the mid-80s and occasionally into
the 90s. They expected no change over the next twelve hours
except in the temperature, which might go lower. Peter knew
that conditions would be only slightly less extreme where
Don Barr was on the summit of Mt. Madison.

After repeated tries Peter got through to Charlie McCrave on the
trail and brought him up to date; Charlie said that his leading
group was pretty well up by now and they’d keep going to
the hut and regroup there. Peter had been keeping track of the
numbers and he realized that Madison hut was two over
capacity before any emergency crews arrived. Now it would be
getting critically short of space.

Just then a call came from Troop F of the state police; they
had more powerful radio equipment and mobile units on the
road, and through them Peter arranged for four Forest Service
men and three of his AMC contingent to turn around on the
Valley Way and spend the night in Randolph. Ten minutes
later he called Carl Carlson, the veteran at Fish and Game, and
brought him up to date on the situation.

The regular 10:30 weather transmission from the summit
observatory reported no change in wind or temperature, with
intermittent snow and heavy icing. Ten minutes later, more
members of the Pinkham crew arrived at the hut with their
radio and fifteen minutes after that the three Pinkham crew
who had turned around on the trail called from the parking
lot and said they’d stand by to see if any more people would
be coming down the trail. At 11:30 the last two members of
the Pinkham group reached the hut and the five waiting in
the parking lot were cleared to return to Pinkham.

Five minutes later Peter went to bed, but he did not rest.
“You know there’s someone up on the mountain and half a
mile from the hut who most likely will not survive the night.
It weighs on you.” Up at the hut, everyone managed to find a
bit of space to lie down and see if they could sleep. The crew
room was full, the two big bunkrooms were full, there were
people sleeping upstairs in the storage attic, there were people
sleeping on the dining room tables and on the floor in places
where they hoped no one would step on them. During the
night the summit observatory recorded winds of 121 mph.

Emily went to bed in her crewroom bunk, but she did not
sleep. She kept getting up, she’d go out to look at the night,
she’d sit in the kitchen and think, “Could we do it?” There
was wet clothing hanging everywhere and draped on every
possible spot and she’d feel to see if it was getting dry. She
even thought about how many for-sale AMC T-shirts there
were — she could hand those around for dry clothes. She
listened to the sleeping sounds of the people all around her in
the hut, and most of all she kept listening to the constant
roaring and rushing of the wind and she thought that
sometimes storms just suddenly blow themselves out and she’d
stretch to see if she could hear the slightest lessening that
might bring hope, but she never heard it.

Stephanie was still with Tavis. “It was hard for me to know
what he was thinking. I don’t remember much sleep. I was
staring out the window into the darkness and holding him
and trying to reassure him that he was okay. People were
coming in and out and there was the darkness and he was
sleeping some. I was whispering to him and murmuring to
him in the night, trying to be quiet.”

First light came and at 5:55 A.M. Emily radioed Pinkham
with a weather report: 42 (degrees) and wind-driven rain at
the hut, and the rescue group up there would be ready to start
for the summit in five minutes. On consultation it was
decided to send a carry party of nine to the summit and keep a
relief group of five at the hut. Peter reminded the hut
contingent that Don should be treated as any person in severe
hypothermia: his wet clothes should be removed and replaced
with dry insulation, he should be protected from wind and
further wetting, and any possible heat loss should be eliminated
as far as possible.

Then Peter again made sure that Emily and everyone in her
crew remembered the first rule of search and rescue: No
member of the rescue group should risk becoming a victim.
The litter group left the hut at 7:05 and they found Don Barr
thirty minutes later. He was in the trail just below the summit
of Mt. Madison and the EMT people determined that he was
unresponsive.

It was the second time up there for Lars: “The wind was still
blowing pretty good, certainly not as high as the night before,
the clouds had lifted and the angle of wind had changed just
enough so when we got to the flat place where he was lying it
was almost calm. He was just lying there with his hands
crossed on his chest.” Lars stood off to one side in that small
island of quiet air, out of the way of the people tending to
Don. It was his first death and he kept thinking that he was
the last one to see Don alive, and now this. Then he saw Emily
go over and kneel down beside him.

Emily was struck by the way Don lay there on his back with
his hands crossed on his chest and she thought that he looked
very peaceful and composed; this was such a contrast to what she
expected that she almost spoke to him. She saw that his eyes were
wide open and looking up into the endless sky, and she thought
it was time for his eyes to close. Emily remembered all those
death scenes in the movies where someone reaches out with a
small gesture and brushes a person’s eyelids down as a sort of
final benediction, but now she learned that unseeing eyes don’t
close as easily as that.

The guideline among emergency teams is “Not dead until
warm and dead,” so this was still a rescue, not a recovery. They
put Don Barr in a sleeping bag and added blankets and the
weatherproof hypowrap, and they were careful to handle him as
gently as they could, because when a person is in extreme
hypothermia even a slight interruption can push the heart into
crisis. They started down toward the hut with the litter, they
were thinking, “Maybe there’s a chance.” The carry required
everything they had - at one point the entire team was knocked
down by the wind and they struggled to keep the litter from
hitting anything.

Tavis was in the kitchen with new clothes while the crew
was getting ready to go up to the summit and Lars was watching
him, “I could see in his eyes that he kind of recognized what
had happened. But maybe there’s still some hope, ‘Okay, the rescue
crew is going up and they’re going to see what’s going on.’ We
explained that hypothermia is one of those things where you can
recover. We were injecting a little bit of hope into ourselves,
that there is a possibility that he could make it. So I’m sure
he was still holding out some hope, but he kind of knew that
if his dad had been lying up there all night, things weren’t very good.”

When Kari Geick was back in the hut after she helped rescue
Tavis, she decided that her best part was tending to the domestic
routine. Everyone else on the crew was between eighteen and
twenty-two years old and they’d been together all summer; she
was five years older than the oldest of them, but she was still only
a few hours into her career with the AMC.

The next morning she was struck by the layering around her.
The crew was tending to routine tasks but there was a stunned
quality everywhere. Alexei was the cook for this day and he’d
finished his part of breakfast some time ago, so he began the
usual business of checking out the guests. “It was kind of surreal,
taking their Visas and Master Cards at the same time as all these
other things were going on.” The guests were very quiet as they
packed up and most of them changed whatever other hiking
plans they had and went down the Valley Way, where they’d be
sure of quick shelter.

The crew was amazed to learn that Tavis was only thirteen;
seeing his size, they thought he was probably seventeen. They
were worried about the way he could meet his father being carried
in a litter with his face covered, and they worked out a timing to
avoid that.

At 8:43 further reserves were alerted from all the services
Peter had contacted. At 11:15, the litter team started down the
Valley Way with McDonald Barr.

Stephanie Arenalas stayed with Tavis through the night and
through the early hours in the kitchen when everyone was up
and around and she stayed with him through breakfast. She
cooked some things to eat for the various people coming up the
Valley Way to help and she kept Tavis occupied while the litter
party came past the hut with his father. Finally she and Rich
Crowley started down the Valley Way with Tavis and Christian.

Tavis hadn’t been saying much during the morning; he seemed
a bit distant and disengaged, and the crew tried not to crowd him.
Then on the hike down he seemed to be bothered by the clothes that
had been brought up for him. There wasn’t any underwear and the
pants were much too big, so the crew had made a belt for him out
of a piece of the rope they use to tie loads on when they’re packing
supplies up to the hut. He kept talking about the pants as they made
their way down the Valley Way and Stephanie realized that she really
didn’t know what a seventh-grader should say at a time like this.

The litter crew reached the Valley Way parking lot at 3:40 P.M.
and they were met by an emergency response vehicle from the Androscoggin
Valley Hospital. Every resuscitation effort failed and McDonald Barr was
pronounced dead later that afternoon.

After calling his mother, Stephanie and Rich thought it was time
for Tavis to be alone for a while, so they showed him to a bunk upstairs
in the crew quarters. Later that morning Mrs. Barr arrived at Pinkham
and she met Peter Crane and Stephanie out near the kitchen.
Stephanie tried to explain what had happened and what they
tried to do up at Madison, but then she had to walk away from
Mrs. Barr. She’d done all she could do.

The Madison crew was in the habit of making a little talk to
the guests at suppertime. That evening Lars made a larger talk
than usual. He talked about his love for the mountains and his
respect for them and he said that people are not infallible, they’re
fragile up in the mountains and there are times when things go
wrong, not as a sacrifice but as a reminder of what can happen.
He talked about the cold fronts that come through at the end of
August and how people start at the bottom and when they get to
the top it’s a different world. He told them that they’d come to
our nice cozy hut expecting all sorts of amenities and we provide
that to you, but you have to get here first. Then he said that one
of those times came just the night before...

When he finished, Lars said later, “They were all looking at
me.” Kari Geick was looking at him, too. It seemed to her that
the talk was partly for the guests and partly for himself, that it
was his way of finishing up the terrible night of McDonald Barr.

Three days later Emily was back at Middlebury College; she
was on the women’s field hockey team and they had a pre-season
training camp. Everywhere she turned there was laughter and
cries of greeting and hugs of reunion and, “How was your
summer?” and, “My summer was really great!” Emily gave them
her greetings and her hugs, but she didn’t go into much detail
about being in charge at Madison Hut.

AFTERMATH
The two climbers who were marooned on Mount Washington
were exposed to the full force of the storm on August 24, but
when the weather moderated they emerged from their tent and
hiked down the mountain without any adverse effects.

Emily has not forgotten McDonald Barr, “It’s always hovering,
it’s always there.” Since then, she has run many guided hikes for
mountain visitors.

Tavis Barr has not done much hiking since his father’s death.
Then in April 1999 he was on a trip to California and spent a
day in Yosemite, where he and some friends hiked up the path to
the top of the park’s signature waterfall. “I brought along a down
coat and a sweater and a hat and gloves. There was no reason I
needed a winter hat and gloves up there at the top, but I still
remembered.”

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