Woman's Deadly 'Last Climb' in the White Mountains Detailed in Book
“She then left the pack behind and crawled up the slope toward Star Lake. At that point, she left her GPS behind as well, a not uncommon act when one is experiencing the disorienting effects of hypothermia. A short time later, she stopped and would not move again. Death likely followed shortly thereafter."
While hardly an uplifting visual, it’s the sobering reality that unfolds in the pages of the New Hampshire-based book, “Where You’ll Find Me – Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova."
Written by Ty Gagne, the book traces Matrosova’s ill-fated traverse of the northern Presidential Range of the White Mountains on Feb. 15, 2015. What was intended to be a 13½ mile traverse of Mount Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington ended up involving the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the New Hampshire National Guard, the NH Civil Air Patrol, Mountain Rescue Service and the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue Team battling snow, sustained winds of 80 mph and wind chill of -62 degrees.
With the extreme cold and high winds produced by a bombogenesis, or weather bomb, the search-and-rescue efforts moved rapidly to a search and recovery phase … but with the constant, lingering hope that Matrosova had sought shelter from the brutal elements.
Matrosova was no passive, inexperienced hiker. Her climbing resume included Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus (18,510 feet) in Russia, Mount Rainier (14,411 feet) in Washington State, Denali, also known as Mount McKinley (20,310 feet) in Alaska and Mount Aconcagua (22,838 feet) in Argentina.
Photos — Remembering Kate Matrosova/Facebook
Armed with a master’s degree in financial engineering, she worked on Wall Street for the fourth-largest investment banks in the world. So … what went wrong?
As the book points out, “We know Matrosova was highly self-confident – with reason- and that she had a track record of sound decision making and high performance in her professional career. But if she was relying on her business acumen to make up for her lack of decision-making experience in alpine terrain, she was potentially setting herself up for trouble."
Gagne manages to effectively juxtapose Matrosova’s ambitious plans with the timing of risk management strategies. Having a plan and bailout options is one thing, but being able to execute them or admit that you’re not going to be able to achieve your goal is another.
The story is told objectively but with empathy and a certain degree of reverence, for Matrosova, the rescuers and for the elements that claimed her. This isn’t the story of just another lost hiker. It’s the detailed recounting of a personal tragedy that everyone can learn from whether you hike or not.