Never hike alone

Not even if you’re an Eagle Scout.

Scott Mason of Halifax, Massachusetts, survived three nights on snowy Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  He nursed his sprained ankle, and kept warm with fires he started using hand sanitizer.

(Boston Globe) Mason later told his mother that he had tweaked his leg during the hike and that it was bothering him. As a precaution, he was taken to the Androscoggin Valley Regional Hospital, where he was evaluated and released.

Back in Halifax, his troop issued a statement, “Boy Scouts of America Troop 39 Halifax, Massachusetts, is extremely pleased with the positive outcome of this incident. Scott is a bright young man and our most experienced hiker. We have no doubt that he put all of his training and skills to use in order to come through this ordeal.”

Mason received an award two years ago for collecting more than 3,200 pounds of food for the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Pine Street Inn. For his Eagle Scout project, he collected the food by leaving boxes at Halifax area businesses. He has been a Boy Scout since he was 11.

Not only is Scouting an adventure, it prepares you to get out of even your own mistakes.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Randy Possehl on the Scouts-L list.

4 Responses to Never hike alone

  1. Onkel Bob says:

    I was too hasty in my judgment. The story I read failed to mention his discussion with the AMC people. I then saw another story where he consulted with them. If that is true, then they should be reprimanded for this if they recommended or approved the “bee-line” (the trail I suspect that he tried) this time of year. There are no bridges on that trail and this time of year the creeks are swollen and cold. They provided some truly bad advice, bordering on malpractice. Shame on them. The route is popular for return trips because as the name suggests, it’s direct. However, as I said, there are no bridges and few people will go up Mt Washington on it as it is steep like a staircase.
    No doubt the kid has smarts to survive, and he should be complimented. He carried a mylar cocoon sack and knew enough not to panic, which is really the key. A similar thing happened to me during a mid-September snow storm on Mt. Clarence King. I was out for 3 days and had brought my summer sleeping bag, which isn’t rated for sub zero temps. That mylar cocoon (part of my emergency kit) saved my freeing tail, I put it inside the bag.
    Hand sanitizers are good, but nothing beats an Esbit tab and tin can for emergency fire starter/stove. Light, burns hot, waterproof, can’t leak, and a tab boils a quart of water in short order.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    A shortcut that he’d discussed with the local mountaineers . . . but yeah, you could be right. On the other hand, while Mt. Washington pales in comparison to the Rockies or the Cascades, in altitude, it’s quite notorious for very, very nasty weather. I was reminded of my previous disdain for easterners and Texans who couldn’t drive snow — until the first time I got out in a little skiff of snow in Washington, D.C.’s northwest burbs — and discovered it was much different than the stuff that fell in feet in the Rockies.

    The kid made a couple of good choices, in taking along the hand cleaner (why didn’t he have a survival kit, though? Any near-20 mile hike in fall or spring can turn treacherous. No GPS? No one else had tried that route?

    I wondered whether he’ll be billed.

    But here’s the bottom line: Others would have been worse off. I don’t expect perfect judgment from any 17-year old, even an Eagle Scout. I’m happy to hear of someone who gets in a scrape and survives on the strength of what they know and their ingenuity.

    Jellied alcohol hand cleaner might become a staple in my survival kit, for example. Good idea. Most of my high school students claim to be shocked to discover hand cleaners are alcohol. At least he knew a bit about chemistry.


  3. Onkel Bob says:

    After reading the story, I am less impressed with his decision making. He veered off his planned route and tried a “shortcut,” which was the source of his trouble. If he stayed on the planned route, he would have made it easily. I know those routes and the shortcut he attempted is just plain stupid during this time of year. Preparation be damned, use common sense and recognize that unless you KNOW what you are doing, stay on the well traveled trail. The Fresno Sheriff department would bill him for this adventure if they had to rescue him from a Sierra Nevada mountain side.


  4. Onkel Bob says:

    Never hike alone IF you are an unprepared. I have a couple of thousand miles of solo hiking, ranging from relatively short trips, crossing Lamar Valley in Yellowstone (6 days cross country – no trails – no people!) to my quadrennial John Muir Trail (221 miles in 12 days – the world’s most beautiful highway!) and always came out.
    This is a bit weird story, a sprained ankle? I hiked 22 miles one day on a sprained ankle. I know a Italian commando who went 15 miles on a BROKEN ankle. Granted I am probably more wilderness aware than most scouts, even Eagle Scouts, and my Italian comrade was an elite on par with Army Rangers (who I slept with in a snow cave on Mt Ranier) but still this seems a bit overblown. Mt Washington is notorious for bad weather, but the terrain is far from difficult.


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