Hut crews have a number of responsibilities, one of them is to participate in search and rescues for lost and injured hikers in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Last week the Madison crew had to carry a thru-hiker who injured his knees, 3.9 miles down the Valley Way Trail, it was a long day.
It started on Monday with the crew getting a report that a thru-hiker, Doug, was moving very slowly towards the hut and needed assistance to get there before dark. It took two crew members no more than 20 minutes to reach Doug on the Gulfside trail but, after hiking from Georgia to the Northern Presidentials, his knees could no longer carry him and it took 2.5 hours for them to return to the hut. Doug spent three nights at the hut resting his legs, icing and trying to recover so that he could make the trip down and go to the hospital under his own power. On the third day, Doug and the crew realized he wasn't going to be able to walk out and that he would need to be carried.
Jesse, the Huts Field Supervisor, and I started coordinating the carry out from Pinkham and then hiked up a litter to the hut on Wednesday in preparation to start carrying after breakfast the next morning. While we were up there, we had the chance to visit with the crew, eat a delicious ham dinner, watch a spectacular sunset and meet some great guests which included a group of firefighters from New York City who were hiking to Lakes the next day. We got to bed early knowing that it would take all of our energy to carry
Doug's 185 pound frame down the trail.
With just 9 people, we started at 8:30am on Thursday morning. Ideally you have 12-18 people on any litter carry but we knew we had many AMC volunteers and NH Fish and Game officers coming up the trail to meet us and we wanted to get a good head start. The trail was wet, steep and very narrow at the top making it slow going. We switched out carriers every 5 minutes as arms and backs got tired quickly but, we made it down the steepest section, "the thousand yards," in a little over an hour to meet our first relief team.
As the trail widened and more helpers met us, the pace picked up and things were moving like clock work. Spirits were high as the rain had cleared for the first day in over a week, we had plenty of help and Doug was as patient as he could be, despite the bumpy ride. We arrived at the trail head after 4.5 hours of backbreaking work, which is pretty good time for the Valley Way. Unlike the other volunteers who took the rest of the day off, the Madison crew did not have much time to relax as they had to be back to the hut by 5:00pm for dinner. With no surprise to many, they made it back up in about an hour and a half.