Monday, March 29, 2004

WHITE DEATH. Here was the story of the weekend - Ken Holmes, a 37-year-old father of five, hiked into the Pemigewasset Wilderness on January 12 and froze to death. Garry Harrington's piece in the Boston Globe Magazine portrays a man who was in excellent physical condition, who packed plenty of cold-weather gear, but who nevertheless had an exceedingly cavalier attitude about how quickly conditions can turn life-threatening in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

I have my own memories of the Pemi. In November 1987 my friend Brad and I set out on what we hoped would be a three-day trip. It soon started snowing, and we ended up camping right in the middle of the trail, with the snow piling up and the temperature dropping into single digits. We couldn't get our backpacking stove to light, so we ended up eating granola bars and huddling in our sleeping bags. We clambered up the summit of Owl's Head the next morning and then bugged out.

Eleven years later we were back, hiking in a steady, at times heavy, rain over Columbus Day Weekend. We camped out the first night. The second night, after making our way over the summits of Bondcliff, Bond, West Bond, and Zealand, we talked our way into Zealand Falls Hut, which had been booked to capacity but had some vacancies because of the weather. Zealand is open year-round. If Holmes had made it there, Harrington notes, it might have saved his life.

In August 2001 I took my son, Tim, and his friend Troy, then both 10, up to Galehead Hut for their first extended hiking experience. Accompanying Harrington's article is a photo of Holmes's backpack in front of Galehead. I've got a picture of Tim, Troy, and me taken in more or less that very spot.

For those of us who love the White Mountains, Harrington's story was both a thriller and a cautionary tale.

HOW DID KELLEY DO IT? "It's like medical malpractice - doctors don't turn one another in." Howard Kurtz offers some insights in this morning's Washington Post into how former USA Today reporter Jack Kelley got away with it for so long.

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