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Search Ends When Lightly Clad Hikers Emerge After Night On Mt. Washington

October 11, 1988

MOUNT WASHINGTON, N.H. (AP) _ Three lightly dressed hikers turned up safe Monday after 24 hours in snow, fog and wind on Mount Washington, where the wind-chill at the summit was 17 below zero in the morning.

Fish and game officials and volunteers had organized search parties for the three, who had no rain gear or warm clothes, after a fourth companion had turned back and reported the situation to officials.

″It was really, really cold. We are very lucky,″ said one of the hikers, Andy Stewart, 23, of Syosset, N.Y.

The hikers had ignored advice from a shelter caretaker on the 6,288-foot mountain Sunday evening and continued toward the summit, said Peter Crane, a member of the staff at a mountaintop weather observatory.

Mount Washington is notorious for severe and quickly changing weather. Snow has fallen on the summit in every month, and the highest surface wind speed ever recorded - 231 mph - was registered at the observatory in 1934.

Stewart said the three were caught in a sudden storm.

″It was fine, then, two minutes later, there were 60 mph winds and heavy snow,″ he said. ″The snow was up to my chin all the way down.″

Stewart said they stayed warm by building a fire - even burning dollar bills to keep it going. They resumed their hike down the mountain about 8 a.m.

″We burned whatever we could, bank cards, money, phone numbers,″ said another hiker, Steve Sardella, 20, of Marlboro, Mass.

The third hiker was Matt Dube, 21, of Bethany, Conn. All were students at Northeastern University.

The hikers said they had on three layers of clothing and carried extra sweaters. They also said they carried sandwiches, crackers and nuts as well as apples.

Maj. Henry Mock of the state Fish and Game Department said the three reached Crawford Notch, a pass on the western side of the mountain, around 2 p.m. Monday in good condition.

Searchers Monday reported snow drifts up to 4 feet deep, Torrey said. A road to the summit had been closed for three days because of snowdrifts. Weather observer John Howe said the summit had a low Sunday of 14 degrees. Winds gusted to 70 mph Sunday.

Records compiled the U.S. Forest Service and others indicate that 103 people have died on Mount Washington since 1849. The most recent apparently were two climbers killed in separate incidents in March 1983. Both lost their footing and slid to their deaths down icy slopes.

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