By Jim Carney
Beacon Journal staff writer
A Firestone High School graduate was among four people rescued in a snow and windstorm early Monday on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Kelly Sloan, 36, a 1996 graduate of Firestone High School, and three others were rescued after calling 911 and activating a GPS locating device to alert rescue agencies that the group of hikers was lost.
The four were part of a group of 15 from Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa., that hiked the mountain Sunday, according to officials with the White Mountain National Forest.
A multi-agency group including the U.S. Forest Service, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the New Hampshire State Police, U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers, Mountain Rescue Service, Appalachian Mountain Club, the Harvard Mountaineering Club, the Mount Washington Observatory and others assisted in the rescue operation, officials said.
The group from the Pennsylvania school, the forest service said, left Sunday morning making it to Lion Head by mid-morning. Five of the group members descended back to the base and the other 10 headed to the summit of the mountain.
The 10 made it to the top of the mountain by 12:30 p.m. and began climbing down the mountain as weather conditions deteriorated. The peak is nearly 6,300 feet high.
The four who were rescued separated from the larger group and passed a critical trail junction and became disoriented, the forest service said.
The four, Wayne Ebling, 59, from Cressona, Pa.; Rhea Mitchell, 22, from Danville, Pa.; Andrew Snyder, 22, from York, Pa.; and Sloan, of Bloomsburg; had to battle wind gusts up to 65 mph and very low visibility and ground blizzards, the forest service reported.
During the rescue, the teams of responders faced winds up to 95 mph and below zero temperatures.
The four who were isolated from the group tried to dig into snow for shelter after they called 911 and activated their emergency GPS device, the forest service said.
Two snow vehicles transported rescue parties into the area and eventually helped bring the lost hikers down the mountain. The hikers were finally brought down the mountain and to area hospitals by 3:30 a.m. Monday.
“This rescue effort, in Mount Washington’s worst weather, was an enormous success that saved lives within the missing group,” forest service snow ranger Christopher Joosen said in a news release.
Sloan, who works at Bloomsburg University, declined to comment when reached Tuesday.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.