The hiker, later identified as 53-year-old Xi Chen, of Andover, Massachusetts, was attempting to traverse the Presidential Range when he was overcome by severe weather on the Gulfside Trail near Mt. Clay in Coos County, New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division said.
Fish and Game officers had been responding to multiple calls from cold hikers stuck on the trail when they got a call from Xi’s wife around 6:30 p.m.
“The hiker had sent a text message to his wife telling her that he was cold and wet and could not continue on,” the agency said. “He further wrote that he felt he would die without a rescue.”
Officials immediately launched a rescue to the area, describing the terrain in the high peaks as treacherous, with freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, snow and winds gusting over 80 mph. Only experienced rescuers with proper gear were dispatched for this rescue, the agency said.
Rescuers located the hiker after an hour, enduring driving rain and blowing snow. Officials said Xi was unresponsive and in a highly hypothermic state.
While trying to warm him up, the agency said rescuers detected signs of life despite him remaining unresponsive. Rescuers then raced to carry the hiker up toward the summit of Mt. Washington, trekking over a mile in rain and buffeting winds.
At the summit, rescuers placed the hiker in a truck and drove him down to the base where an ambulance was waiting to rush him to the hospital. After several hours of life saving efforts, Xi was pronounced dead.
Officials said that multiple other hikers ignored the forecasted weather conditions and instead of turning back or bailing to safer elevations, they pressed on and ultimately called 911 expecting a rescue.
“Sometimes having enough gear is not enough,” the agency said. “In weather conditions experienced this weekend it is better to descend and get out of the wind and cold instead of pushing on until it is too late.”