Roy Sanford woke up early Sunday morning and headed north to the wilderness of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, a trip he had made countless times through the decades as an avid hiker and a lover of the outdoors, his son said Tuesday.
Sanford, 66, was due to return to his home in Plymouth in time for dinner. Around 6 p.m., his wife, Mary Beth, phoned her adult children, Chris, Ryan, and Meghan, concerned that their father had not yet come home. They called the Warren, N.H., Police Department, near Mount Moosilauke, the 4,802-foot peak that Sanford had set out to summit that day, Chris Sanford said.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was notified and conservation officers began a search of the area with the help of volunteers on the ground and a New Hampshire Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter from above.
Sanford was found Monday afternoon after officers discovered foot tracks in fresh snow heading down Gorge Brook from the summit around 3 p.m. He was taken by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., where he was pronounced dead, officials said in a statement.
Chris Sanford said his father was a “very experienced mountaineer” who had summited peaks around the world, including Denali in Alaska and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“I’ve probably climbed Mount Washington with him 10 times,” said Chris Sanford, 34, in a phone interview. “There were a lot of things my dad liked to do, and he was an avid mountaineer in his spare time.”
A New Hampshire state trooper located Roy Sanford’s vehicle Sunday at the Glencliff Trailhead off High Street in Benton, N.H., and conservation officers conducted an initial search up the trail where they experienced blizzard conditions with heavy wind gusts and below-freezing temperatures, officials said in a statement Tuesday.
The officers reached the south peak of Mount Moosilauke and then had to turn around due to the high winds and lack of visibility. Nearby trailheads were checked throughout the night, and the next morning several ground teams of conservation officers and volunteers searched the trails on and around Mount Moosiluake while a Blackhawk helicopter provided aerial coverage, the statement said.
Later that afternoon, conservation officers noticed Sanford’s tracks in the snow, which led to the discovery of his body about 40 minutes later.
Sanford had retired and moved to Plymouth a little more than a year ago. He and his wife raised their three children in Sudbury, where they lived for 28 years, Chris Sanford said.
After retiring, Roy Sanford was not “one to sit idly,” his son said. He built a deck for his family’s Plymouth home and took an exam for securities traders so he could handle some of his own investments.
Sanford coached AAU basketball and Pop Warner football and was a member of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School’s booster club, Chris Sanford said. He also served as vice president of the board for Chalice US, a Catholic charity organization, since 2012, his son said.
Despite his many commitments and hobbies, Roy Sanford always made time for family and friends, his son said.
“He was the kind of guy who was friends with everybody,” Chris Sanford said. “He’d light up a room when he came in. He was a master of the ‘dad jokes’ in the best way possible. He loved spending time with us.”
Meghan Sanford described her father as “the best man I know.”
“His happiness was contagious and he had a way of leaving a smile on the faces of everyone he met,” she said.
Ryan Sanford said he’ll remember his father for “his love for the people in his life.”
“I will always look up to my father,” he said. “He knew what to say and when to say it.”
New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said it appeared that weather conditions played “a major contributing factor” in this hiking incident.
“This time of year always offers a challenging time for enjoying the wilds of the state,” the statement said. “Temperatures have the potential to change by 20 degrees in a day. Additionally, the mountain tops have retained most of their winter feel but still swarm brooks and streams with water, making crossings more difficult.”
Officials recommend visiting the website www.hikesafe.com for information on how to properly prepare for hikes.