By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — LANCASTER — Two Vermont hikers were caught in a late-afternoon storm on Mount Madison Monday and needed to be rescued, according to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
Raymond Barnard, 28, and Stephanie Watkins, 27, both of Brownsville, Vt., were on an exposed section of the Pine Link Trail when they were hit by torrential rain and wind that approached 90 mph, according to Fish and Game officials.
The two took shelter among some rocks. Visibility was down to almost nothing and the temperature was dropping, prompting the hikers to call 911 at about 7 p.m.
Two Fish and Game officers and two members of the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team responded, hiking nearly four miles. The rescuers found the hikers at about 1 a.m. yesterday, just a quarter-mile from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Madison Springs hut.
Barnard and Watkins were soaked and cold, but, when found, spoke to their rescuers and dressed in the dry clothes they were given. They walked out under their own power, reaching the trailhead at about 4:40 a.m. yesterday.
Fish and Game officials said the hikers described the weather they experienced on the summit as some of the worst they had ever seen. They were planning a hike of several days and had sleeping bags and a tent with them, which likely helped keep them safer than they might otherwise have been, officials said.
Their rescue was further complicated by a weak cell phone signal, officials said. Emergency personnel were unable to get an accurate GPS coordinate for the hikers’ location. Because Barnard and Watkins paid attention to landmarks and trail signs, rescuers were able to find them.
Fish and Game officials caution all hikers to be prepared for self-sufficiency. Tips can be found at http://www.hikesafe.com.
There was another rescue earlier Monday, this one on Mount Sunapee.
Matthew Weinstein, 23, of Mill River, Mass., became separated from caregiver Marius Louw and two other hikers, Fish and Game officials reported.
This happened at 1:30 p.m., when the group was descending the Summit Trail in Mount Sunapee State Park.
Weinstein’s companions searched for him for some two and a half hours before calling for help.
Fish and Game officers, Newbury Fire Department members and volunteers from the Upper Valley Wilderness Search and Rescue Team responded.
The impending storm and the fact that Weinstein is nonverbal added some urgency to the search, according to Fish and Game officials.
Weinstein finally was located, about five miles from his last known location by the Goshen fire chief. Weinstein was not injured.
Officials remind hikers to plan ahead, watch the weather forecast, stay together and dress appropriately.