When Robby Cummings found himself stranded on a New Hampshire mountain in whiteout conditions on Friday, he did what many millennials do: He posted about it on social media.
“Send help, stuck by cairn on Old Bridle in alpine between hut and Lafayette Summit,” he wrote using his phone. “Wind took map and compass white out conditions.”
What was supposed to be a beautiful hike in the White Mountains had taken a dangerous turn, and his plea for help on Facebook prompted several people to call New Hampshire Fish and Game shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday morning, officials said.
Cummings, 25, of Loudon, N.H., also sent a text to New Hampshire 911 stating that he was on Mount Lafayette and needed help. He texted his friends who knew his hiking plans and also shared news of his predicament with a hiking group on Facebook.
Before sending those messages, Cummings dialed 911. But he was unable to make voice calls.
“As a last resort, I posted on Facebook,” he said in a telephone interview.
At 5,260 feet, Mount Lafayette is the highest peak in the Franconia Ridge, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club. At the time, the winds were blowing 40 miles per hour, snow was whipping around, and temperatures were only in the 20s, officials said.
New Hampshire Fish and Game officials said conservation officers were able to communicate with Cummings by text and started up the trail shortly after noon.
He was eventually able to make a brief call to 911, and rescuers got the coordinates of his location, learning that he was just below the summit of Mount Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail.
Cummings told authorities that he began his journey about 2 a.m. and had planned to take the Old Bridle Path and hike up to the summit of Mount Lafayette. He said he is an experienced hiker who has gone up to the summit many times. He checked the weather forecast beforehand and brought all the gear he needed to make the trip, he said.
But when he got close to the summit, the winds suddenly started picking up. “I turned back the moment it showed signs of getting bad,” he said.
He decided to head back around 7 a.m. but was overcome by the high winds and no visibility, officials said.
At one point, Cummings said, his bag containing essential pieces of gear — including his map, compass, and bivy sack, which is like an emergency sleeping bag — fell out of his pack, landed on the hard crust, and slid down the mountain.
“That’s when I knew I had to get help,” he said.
Cummings said he dug out a snow shelter. “I laid in that hole for about seven hours,” he said.
He texted his family and friends to let them know he loved them, and continued to lay in the hole, anxiously awaiting help.
Hours went by, before he heard a voice calling his name in the wind.
It was about 4:30 p.m. when conservation officers located him.
Colonel Kevin Jordan of New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Law Enforcement Division said Cummings was lucky.
“Hiking alone in winter conditions . . . that’s risky behavior,” Jordan said. “You should never be alone.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.