Another tale of rescue on Mt. Mansfield as told by the Stowe Mountain Rescue Team:
We were called on a big mission yesterday – and ‘big’ just means it took some time and effort on our part. An adventurous hiker was tackling Mt Mansfield from the Underhill side. He climbed Sunset Ridge and got close to the summit when the blizzard conditions started to make turning round seem sensible.
Credit here to our hiker for not succumbing to Summit Fever. He intended to backtrack down Sunset Ridge but lost the trail in the blizzard and descended into Thunder Basin. Noticing that he had dwindling cell phone battery and realizing that he was totally lost, he made the smart decision to call 911 while he was still able to do so, giving us a fighting chance to get him out before dark.
Looking for a lost hiker in Thunder Basin would be like searching for a needle in a haystack if it wasn’t for modern technology. As it is, his 911 call gave us his coordinates, so it was a straight forward job of hiking to his known location.
Except that there’s nothing straight forward about hiking in steep terrain and deep snow in snowshoes! Crossing the ridge of Mount Mansfield was fun – if a little extreme in the strong wind – but as soon as we dropped down into the steeps of Thunder Basin through dense wind-stunted trees, the going got tough.
We focused on not getting injured as we picked our way down.
Eventually we came upon our subject and were happy to find him making good decisions – he had chosen a nice sheltered spot, had changed out of his wet base layer into dry clothes, was well equipped and ready to roll.
We also discovered he had nerves of steel. We found this out as the terrain got more and more sketchy as we encountered an icy ravine. There were several steep pitches that we set up a fixed rope for – something to hold on to as you worked your way down- and he tackled them fearlessly.
After this excitement the terrain opened out and it all got a bit trudgy. Just before dark we popped out onto a track and were met by beloved teammates - and the even more beloved ATV that shuttled us back to civilization.
The cherry on the cake was that our subject has vowed to go home and join a Mountain Rescue team. He certainly has the nerves and stamina for the job. And despite needing a rescue, he made a series of good decisions that resulted in a successful mission.
We wish him well!