Hiker dies of hypothermia in storm near Mount Washington

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A hiker attempting the presidential crossing in New Hampshire has died of hypothermia after a severe storm brought gusty winds and wintry conditions to Mount Washington, according to state wildlife officials.

In two press releases, New Hampshire Fish and Game said it learned the hiker, Xi Chen, was in danger around 6:30 p.m. June 18 after his wife, Lian Liu, called emergency services. In a text message, Chen, 53, told him he was cold and wet, and that “he felt he would die without help”.

A rescue team made up of North Conway-based Mountain Rescue Service personnel, conservation officers and state parks personnel responded to the call, using a state-owned truck with chains to ferry rescuers down the ice-covered auto road to nearby Mt. Washington Summit. Conditions were freezing, with wind gusts of 80 miles per hour and a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow falling in sub-zero temperatures. The initial team left at 9:30 p.m., another team left an hour later.

By the time the first team found Chen on the Gulfside Trail near Mount Clay at 10:38 a.m., he was “hypothermic and unresponsive,” Fish and Game said. The team built a shelter and attempted to warm him, then transported him to the top of the mountain and evacuated him by truck to the base of the mountain, where they transferred him to an ambulance for the transported to Androscoggin Valley Hospital near Berlin. Unfortunately, Chen did not survive: after “rescue efforts were attempted for several hours”, doctors pronounced him dead.

Popularly known as “the home of the worst weather in the world”, Mount Washington has recorded some of the highest wind speeds ever measured on Earth and can receive snow any month of the year. More than 160 people have died at the summit since 1849. While Liu told NBC Boston that Chen had summitted 19 of the state’s 4,000-foot peaks, conditions on and around Mount Washington were exceptionally harsh at the weekend course. New Hampshire Fish and Game said a hiker became hypothermic, surviving with the help of a group of Randolph Mountain Club members who carried her to a cabin. Another had called 911 from Tuckerman Ravine before a hike lend him warm clothes and help get him to safety.

“Predicted weather conditions, especially for the higher peaks, have not been taken into account by many hikers. Several found themselves unprepared for the dangerous conditions above the treeline, and instead of turning back or jumping to safer altitudes, they continued and eventually called 911 while waiting for rescue,” the agency said.

In addition to his wife, Xi Chen leaves behind three children, one in high school and two in college. Readers wishing to support his family can donate to their GoFundMe campaign.

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