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For Release: Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DEC Forest Rangers Find Hikers Lost in the High Peaks

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers have located the hikers who spent two nights in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

DEC Forest Rangers in a New York State Police (NYSP) Helicopter located Blake Alois, 20, and Madison Popolizio, 19, both of Niskayuna, NY, southeast and 265 feet below the summit of Algonquin Peak, this morning at approximately 11:00 a.m.

"The entire DEC family is pleased to report that the hikers missing in the High Peaks have been found and are now receiving medical attention," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "We are proud of the actions taken by DEC's Forest Rangers and our partners from the New York State Police and Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) during this search and rescue effort. DEC encourages all visitors to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks during the winter months to safely prepare for the elements and exercise caution."

At approximately 11:30 a.m, NYSP helicopter inserted DEC Forest Rangers at the scene, who found the pair alive but suffering from hypothermia.

Forest Rangers wrapped the pair in warming blankets and prepared them for evacuation. Cloud cover delayed helicopter operations but Forest Rangers and State Police hoisted Alois and Popolizio into the helicopter and flown to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for further evaluation and medical treatment at 1:25 p.m.

The hikers left the Adirondak Loj Trailhead on the morning of Sunday, December 11, to hike to the summit of Algonquin Peak in the High Peaks Wilderness, Town of Keene, Essex County.

At 5:42 p.m. on Sunday, DEC Ray Brook Dispatch received a phone call from concerned family members reporting that they had not received any communication from the hikers since approximately noon. Family members provided photos and videos of the pair's hike at that time. Both Alois and Popolizio appeared to be in good condition and wearing winter clothing in the photographs.

Forest Rangers were immediately dispatched to the trailhead on Sunday where they located the pair's vehicle. DEC Forest Rangers searched the trail up Algonquin Mountain and down to the other side at Lake Colden until 3:45 a.m.
On Monday, more than 20 Forest Rangers searched over 40 miles of trails and drainage systems in the area around Algonquin Mountain. Snow, clouds, and winds prevented the use of aviation resources and made for difficult search conditions.

Two dozen DEC Forest Rangers, members of the New York State Police Special Operations Response Team, and State Police Aviation Units participated in the search this morning. DHSES set up and provided communications support at the command post at the Adirondak Loj.

The searchers faced below-freezing temperatures, wind chills below zero, and three feet or more of snow. DEC Forest Rangers have conducted 353 search and rescue operations so far this year.

DEC advises visitors to the High Peaks to wear proper clothing and have equipment for snow, ice, and cold to ensure a safe winter experience. This time of year, snow depths range from 6 to 20 inches or more. The deepest snows are typically in the eastern Adirondacks with thinner depths in the western portion. Snow depths are deeper in the higher elevations like the High Peaks and other mountains over 3,000 feet.

Visitors to the High Peaks Wilderness Area are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for their safety when terrain is snow covered with 8 or more inches of snow. Visitors to other Adirondack lands are encouraged to do so for their safety and the safety of other backcountry users. Snowshoes or skis ease travel on snow and prevent "post holing," which can ruin trails and cause sudden falls resulting in injuries. Ice crampons also should be carried to use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas.

In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:

  • Sign-in whenever passing a trail register.
  • Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (not cotton!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.
  • Carry a day pack with the following contents: Ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.
  • Carry plenty of food and water. Eat, drink and rest often. Being tired, hungry or dehydrated makes you more susceptible to hypothermia.
  • Check weather before entering the woods - if the weather is poor, postpone your trip.
  • Be aware of weather conditions at all times - if the weather worsens, head out of the woods.
  • Know the terrain and your physical capabilities - it takes more time and energy to travel through snow.
  • Never travel alone and always inform someone of your intended route and return time.

Traveling through snow takes more energy and time than hiking the same distance, especially in freshly fallen snow. Plan trips accordingly.

Call the DEC Forest Ranger Emergency Dispatch at 518-891-0235 to report lost or injured people or other backcountry emergencies.

Prior to heading out, people are encouraged to consult the DEC Adirondack Trail Information web page, which provides current trail condition information and links to current weather, snow cover and other important information to help ensure a safe and enjoyable Adirondack backcountry winter experience. Visit the DEC website for winter hiking tips.

DEC will continue to provide updates as they become available.

  • Contact for this Page
  • DEC Region 5 Office - David Winchell
    1115 NYS Rte. 86
    P.O. Box 296
    Ray Brook, NY 12977
    518-897-1248
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