Hills are alive with danger and death


Hikers get killed or hurt in many different ways in the mountains, as shown by the following incidents reported by the American Alpine Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club or by various news organizations:

June 1990: Telling no one of their plans, two teen-agers go hiking on Mount Pilchuck near Seattle, but fail to return. Four days later, their bodies are found at the bottom of a cliff a quarter-mile from the trail. Other hikers remember the teens inquiring about a shortcut down.

February 1990: In the San Gabriel Mountains not far from downtown Los Angeles, a 22-year-old hiker falls 70 feet down a cliff. After scrambling back nearly to the top to rejoin friends, he falls again -- this time 125 feet to his death.

October 1988: In New Hampshire, while hiking the Appalachian Trail alone in freezing weather, a 30-year-old man begins drinking vodka in the mistaken belief that it will warm him. He nearly dies of hypothermia, but is rescued by other hikers who find him babbling and crawling along the ground.

July 1988: A 49-year-old business executive, an experienced hiker and mountain climber, is killed by lightning in the Colorado Rockies near Aspen. During the same month, an inexperienced hiker gets separated from three companions in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Eight days later, he is found dead of exposure and dehydration.

May 1988: In another incident in the White Mountains, a 24-year-old woman trips and breaks her leg, a common injury among hikers and campers. Getting her to a medical facility requires a rescue party of 45 rangers and volunteers, and a seven-hour carry over five miles of wild terrain.

September 1987: Following a hike up New Hampshire's Mount Lafayette, a 62-year-old man complains of chest pains and dies 25 minutes later of an apparent heart attack -- a growing cause of fatalities as more and more older people take to the mountains.

September 1983: A 30-year-old man tries to rescue his dog from a narrow ledge on Mount Powell in Colorado. His attention fixed on the dog's plight, the man fails to watch his own footing and falls 200 feet to his death. Later, the dog is found unhurt.

# -- Ernest F. Imhoff

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