EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

September 18, 2013

2 Maine hikers explain surviving Colo. ordeal

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Two women from Maine say they were “one bad event away from complete disaster” during their terrifying ordeal in an ice storm thousands of feet atop a Colorado peak.

Thirty-two-year-old Connie Yang and 33-year-old Suzanne Turell, both of York, Maine, say they took advantage of a break in the storm atop the 14,200-foot Longs Peak. They hiked down a gully into a valley to escape the bad weather.

That was after they endured the previous night of rough weather, when they desperately tried to stay awake to keep snow from collapsing their tent as the storm raged around them.

The next morning brought a lightning storm that lit up their tent and, they said, illuminated the number of life-threatening situations they were facing.

“If our tent ripped away in the wind or the poles broke or we got caught in a flash flood or broke an ankle, it could be the end,” they wrote in a four-page email sent to friends and shared with The Associated Press. They said they were already exhausted from a sleepless night, making it even more difficult to keep warm.

Conditions were worsening, as ice coated their high-elevation location, and visibility was “non-existent.”

The two are experienced hikers. Both work at NEMO Equipment, an outdoor sporting goods manufacturer in Dover. Yang is director of engineering, and Turell heads the product design team.

They had worked with Rocky Mountain State Park staff to coordinate their seven-day hike and plan for the weather, which was predicted to range between 40-80 degrees, with the possibility of thunderstorms each day. They began the hike Sept. 6.

The weather took a turn for the worse on the third day of the hike, with thunderstorms increasing in intensity throughout the day. Cloud cover rendered their GPS unreliable.

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