Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

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painless4u2
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Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by painless4u2 »

Emily Sotelo was dropped off Sunday morning at Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia with the intent to hike (solo) Mount Lafayette, Haystack, and Flume in the White Mountain range of New Hampshire. She has been reported as overdue, with temperatures below zero. Officials said anyone who may have encountered Sotelo along their climb should contact the New Hampshire State Police Dispatch at 603-271-1170. Prayers for good outcome. https://www.wmur.com/article/lost-hiker ... 2/42040436
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by nyker »

Hoping for a good outcome here. Hate reading about these stories. The weather up around these parts has been cold the past few days with new snow and and very windy conditions Sun/Mon.
Can't say the details reported make much sense, seems she has decent experience including survival training, but then it says she was wearing sneakers, lighter clothes, no light, etc. in winter conditions.
Fingers crossed.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by jrbren_vt »

I have been following this through the Boston Globe and White Mountain Facebook group. I am very familiar with this area. The way I understand it is that she was very experienced for summer conditions, but very new to winter hiking. November can be a bad trap month for that. Very sad story.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by CheapCigarMan »

Apparently, “Officials said Sotelo was close to reaching her goal of hiking New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet before she turned 20 but was woefully unprepared for the snow and wind on Sunday. She was wearing a light jacket, hiking sneakers and exercise pants over long underwear.
Her parents told reporters she was an experienced hiker, but had not done much winter hiking.”

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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by 14erFred »

Prayers for comfort & strength for Emily’s family & friends. May she rest in peace forever, & may her memory always be a blessing.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by Ptglhs »

For all that they're 8,000ft lower than CO's alpine peaks the mountains in New England don't play around. I did Washington, Karahdin, Marcy, and Mansfield at the beginning of Oct in 21. I believe it when they say Washington has the worst weather in the world. I'd hate to think what another 6 weeks would do to temps and conditions.

My condolences to her loved ones.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by lbethel »

I was in the area the day before and the conditions were very cold with lots of snow. Wind chills that day were minus 20 at the summit. Mt Lafayette routinely has white out conditions even when its not snowing due to the blowing snow. Navigation is nearly impossible and there's no discernable trail when its covered with snow. Also, the north west side of Lafayette is steep and requires at least snow spikes
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by madmattd »

I have a lot of folks I know in NH/MA/VT, and so was following this story as it happened with them. I've also hiked that ridge/area ~10 times, in all seasons; it's very popular for a reason. From the description Fish and Game posted (which CheapCigarMan copied above), I suspect this was another case of someone missing the turn off the summit of Mt. Lafayette and instead heading too far North before realizing their error. Mount Lafayette, despite it's elevation just a few feet shy of 1 mile high (heck, most of us on this forum live higher than that!), is well above treeline (treeline in the Whites is ~4000'). In poor/no visibility conditions, it is easy to miss the signs by the summit, and unless one has been up there a couple times, you may not even recognize you've missed a turn for a while. It's been a source of many (usually successful) rescues over the years, most of the time with the rescued party ending up coming down the Skookumchuck Trail.

For those curious, I've linked a CalTopo view of the immediate area. (If I could figure out how to embed an image without uploading it somewhere I would...)

The most common Franconia Ridge hike is a loop from the West, going up the Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack, heading North along the ridge to Lafayette, then heading West down the Greenleaf Trail to the Greenleaf Hut near treeline (Greenleaf Knob in the map below), before completing the loop on the Old Bridle Path. In nice weather, this is a beautiful (though crowded) hike, roughly 9 miles in length with around 3800' of elevation gain. From a little below Little Haystack on the ascent until down near Greenleaf Hut, you are above treeline. It is the left turn to the West off Mount Lafayette when heading North that folks periodically miss (especially in poor weather), and the next trail to the North is the Skookumchuck Trail (which is an awesome trail by the way!), which ends many miles from the starting trailhead. The drainage to the West between Mount Lafayette and North Lafayette is where Lafayette Brook runs, and I understand it to be somewhere near the upper end of that drainage to be where the body was found.

Such a sad story, and it seems to be hitting the New England hiking community quite hard.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by onebyone »

madmattd wrote: Wed Nov 30, 2022 3:23 pm I have a lot of folks I know in NH/MA/VT, and so was following this story as it happened with them. I've also hiked that ridge/area ~10 times, in all seasons; it's very popular for a reason. From the description Fish and Game posted (which CheapCigarMan copied above), I suspect this was another case of someone missing the turn off the summit of Mt. Lafayette and instead heading too far North before realizing their error. Mount Lafayette, despite it's elevation just a few feet shy of 1 mile high (heck, most of us on this forum live higher than that!), is well above treeline (treeline in the Whites is ~4000'). In poor/no visibility conditions, it is easy to miss the signs by the summit, and unless one has been up there a couple times, you may not even recognize you've missed a turn for a while. It's been a source of many (usually successful) rescues over the years, most of the time with the rescued party ending up coming down the Skookumchuck Trail.

For those curious, I've linked a CalTopo view of the immediate area. (If I could figure out how to embed an image without uploading it somewhere I would...)

The most common Franconia Ridge hike is a loop from the West, going up the Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack, heading North along the ridge to Lafayette, then heading West down the Greenleaf Trail to the Greenleaf Hut near treeline (Greenleaf Knob in the map below), before completing the loop on the Old Bridle Path. In nice weather, this is a beautiful (though crowded) hike, roughly 9 miles in length with around 3800' of elevation gain. From a little below Little Haystack on the ascent until down near Greenleaf Hut, you are above treeline. It is the left turn to the West off Mount Lafayette when heading North that folks periodically miss (especially in poor weather), and the next trail to the North is the Skookumchuck Trail (which is an awesome trail by the way!), which ends many miles from the starting trailhead. The drainage to the West between Mount Lafayette and North Lafayette is where Lafayette Brook runs, and I understand it to be somewhere near the upper end of that drainage to be where the body was found.

Such a sad story, and it seems to be hitting the New England hiking community quite hard.
So, the person who dropped her off said the climber targeted Lafayette first not the usual Haystack way people go. What do your friends out there say happened??? If she did not make the summit due to weather then she should have returned the way she came with a failed summit. If she did make the summit then maybe goes the wrong way back down?? Doesn't seem she got past the first peak but not sure.
Curious to know what your friends in the area think. Very confusing story.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by madmattd »

onebyone wrote: Wed Nov 30, 2022 6:16 pm So, the person who dropped her off said the climber targeted Lafayette first not the usual Haystack way people go. What do your friends out there say happened??? If she did not make the summit due to weather then she should have returned the way she came with a failed summit. If she did make the summit then maybe goes the wrong way back down?? Doesn't seem she got past the first peak but not sure.
Curious to know what your friends in the area think. Very confusing story.
Huh, I hadn't seen that, that definitely changes my theory. I'll have to look into it. There is a section a bit below the summit where the trail has you skirt North-ish around a few formations, I could see a scenario in low visibility where one might end up far enough off to get into that drainage, but there are a TON of cairns and scree wall up there. So many possibilities of what could have gone wrong sadly.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by onebyone »

madmattd wrote: Wed Nov 30, 2022 7:34 pm
onebyone wrote: Wed Nov 30, 2022 6:16 pm So, the person who dropped her off said the climber targeted Lafayette first not the usual Haystack way people go. What do your friends out there say happened??? If she did not make the summit due to weather then she should have returned the way she came with a failed summit. If she did make the summit then maybe goes the wrong way back down?? Doesn't seem she got past the first peak but not sure.
Curious to know what your friends in the area think. Very confusing story.
Huh, I hadn't seen that, that definitely changes my theory. I'll have to look into it. There is a section a bit below the summit where the trail has you skirt North-ish around a few formations, I could see a scenario in low visibility where one might end up far enough off to get into that drainage, but there are a TON of cairns and scree wall up there. So many possibilities of what could have gone wrong sadly.
Yeah. Very confusing. If she had a pack with some winter gear, proper hiking boots, etc. then I can see her summiting Lafayette then maybe getting farther along the ridge, then making a wrong turn like you said during a retreat. But if the description of what she was wearing is correct, then it seems she thought was planning on an almost trail run. Moving fast with minimum gear. But if the weather was as bad as they were saying with lots of snow and basically blowing her off the mountain then she was likely denied a summit and would just retreat back down the trail. She apparently had done 45/48 of the NH 4,000 foot mountains. Prob not in winter conditions, but it seems like she was not clueless and in decent shape.
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Re: Missing Climber in the White Mountains NH

Post by nyker »

I've been trying to figure out what happened here as well and is just very unfortunate. It could just be a bad day in the mountains and a confluence of events that just went south.
I was in the northern Adirondacks that week and can attest to the fact the weather that weekend into Monday was harsh. Bad weather, very cold conditions, fatigue all can weigh on distort judgement higher up even to the best of us.

Many sources out there have conflicting information;

This below source says "she missed a turn" also, that "She made it to all three summits she wanted and unfortunately on the descent she missed the turn which is hard to find on a windy day or just in general"
https://nybreaking.com/emily-sotelo-upd ... ail-found/

This site says she only made it up Lafayette and frankly the author of the article jumps to conclusions and is pretty distastefully critical:
https://www.concordmonitor.com/hiker-wh ... t-48938126

With the greatest respect for her and sympathy for her family, what doesn't make sense for me is that most sources mention that her and her Mom were staying nearby for a several days and that she was dropped off at the trailhead before sunrise in clothes/gear
that would generally be considered too light for being out in winter conditions...but wouldn't someone realize that they were underprepared within two minutes after stepping outside the car in those conditions at that hour and that they might need more clothes, warmer jacket,
socks, boots, etc. and then opt to turn around or go back get another layer/boots, etc. and come back? Most sources mention she was fit, cross country runner, experienced in NH 4000'er hiking almost finishing them (albeit in summer conditions) and was a smart, bright girl at a good school, so something doesn't add up.

May Emily rest in peace and her family and friends find closure from this tragedy.
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