Hypothermic hiker airlifted off Cadillac

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK – A 19-year-old Florida woman who attempted to climb Cadillac Mountain at night without proper clothing or survival gear was airlifted off the summit road shortly after 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to Ranger Richard Rechholtz, the woman and two male companions decided to hike up the NorthRidge Trail starting their trek shortly after 4 a.m. It is not unusual for as many as 50 people to hike to the top of Cadillac on New Year’s Eve so they can see the sunrise on a new year.

Because much of the North Ridge Trail is located on the eastern side of the main ridge, snow depths there are usually deeper than other areas. “I’d say it averages about four feet with all the snow we’ve had, Ranger Rechholtz said. While temperatures were in the low 20s, wind chills hovered around zero.

The trio apparently made it to the summit and was heading back down the closed road when the woman developed symptoms of hypothermia. She was semi-responsive and had an irregular heartbeat, according to reports.

Other park visitors, who were properly equipped, the ranger said, provided her with a sleeping bag and blankets and called for help.

In response to a cell phone call for help around 7:30 a.m., Ranger Rechholtz and a paramedic from Bar Harbor headed up the mountain on a snowmobile with a rescue sled. “We rolled it over twice in some of the drifts,” he said.

In the meantime, a Lifeflight helicopter out of Bangor was dispatched and was able to land on a portion of the summit road swept bare of snow by the wind. One of the trio, a young man who was wearing only sneakers and who was very cold and wet, and the woman, were evacuated by Lifeflight to the Eden Street Ferry Terminal parking lot in Bar Harbor. They were taken by Bar Harbor Ambulance to the Emergency Room at the Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor were the woman was admitted.

According to Ranger Rechholtz, “people need to be prepared.” He said none of the people in the hiking group were wearing winter hiking clothing, footwear, or had survival gear with them. “They are very lucky there were other people there who knew what they were doing.”

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.

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