Rescue teams battle 90mph winds on Mt Washington after reckless hiker makes "numerous poor decisions"

A climber on snow mount washington NH
Officials say the hiker's bad judgement endangered the lives of mountain rescue (Image credit: Isaac Shiffman)

A solo hiker who required rescue from New Hampshire's Mount Washington on Saturday amid 90mph winds and -52F temperatures has been called "inexperienced" by rescue crews who say he would have undoubtedly died without their help.

According to a news release by New Hampshire Fish and Game, Cole Matthes, 22, of Portsmouth NH set off for a hike over the holiday weekend unprepared and persisted despite poor weather.

"Matthes made numerous poor decisions in regards to the hike that he planned in the White Mountains. Matthes did not have proper gear, equipment, weather planning, and or proper critical decisions in order to keep himself out of harm’s way and moving in the right direction on a dangerous mountain range," writes NHFG in the release.

"Matthes saw other groups turn around and say, 'The weather isn't worth it.' But he decided to keep going."

Matthes initially called 911 saying he was injured and seeking assistance from mountain rescue around 12 p.m. but due to poor reception, teams had to rely on GPS coordinates to locate him. Rescuers were using the cog railway to ascend the mountain when they heard from Matthes again who said he was in the emergency shelter below the Lakes in the Clouds Hut at 5,030 feet in elevation.

Mount Washington in Winter

Rescuers teams usedthe mountain cog railway to ascend the mountain  (Image credit: ScottOrr)

Rescue teams found Matthes at 6:17 p.m. wearing several layers of frozen clothing and frozen hiking boots. He was suffering from both frostbite and hypothermia. It took crews three and a half hours to warm him up before transporting him down the mountain via the railway. He was treated in an ambulance for hypothermia, but reportedly refused advice to go to hospital and was left at his vehicle just before midnight, nearly 12 hours after his initial call for help.

Though officials are often quick to warn that hiking is inherently risky and usually shy away from blaming the subjects of rescues, in this case the news release pulls no punches in identifying the cause of the problem.

"Matthes called for rescue after making all these poor decisions, and putting himself in a situation that placed 11 other lives in danger in order to save his."

All hikers are reminded to check the mountain weather forecast before setting off, ensure they are properly equipped and skilled for the route they're planning, which in winter may mean using crampons and an ice axe, and know when to turn back if conditions deteriorate.

An observatory is covered with heavy snow atop Mount Washington

Mount Washington is frequently home to some of the worst weather in the world. (Image credit: Christopher Morris - Corbis / Contributor)

Why is Mount Washington so dangerous?

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern US at just over 6,000 feet tall, and has claimed more lives than any other mountain in the country. It is a strenuous hike and the mountain is frequently home to some of the worst weather in the world. Learn more in our article on what makes Mount Washington so dangerous.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.