Text quoted from the Boston Globe:
Hiker says wrong turn in poor weather cost wife her life
By Theo Emery, Associated Press Writer, 3/29/2004
BOSTON -- Brenda and Russell Cox were married outdoors in the Vermont mountains seven years ago with a layer of new-fallen snow around them. Last Monday night, after the couple took shelter from a storm in a mountaintop cave in New Hampshire, Russell Cox reached for his wife, and felt that she had stopped shivering and her skin was cold. "Brenda died doing what she loved to do, and I think that that makes me happy," Cox said Monday at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he's been since rescuers found him last Tuesday outside the snowy cave where his wife died in the night.
Cox spoke to reporters Monday, a wedding photo propped on a nearby table, along with the New Hampshire Fish and Game official who led the search for the couple, the stepson who alerted authorities they were missing and Russell Cox's physician, Dr. John Schulz.
Schulz said Cox could stay in the hospital as long as two weeks, while doctors wait to see the extent of the frostbite damage to his toes, feet, chest and fingertips. "For Mr. Cox, it's still quite early. We're very encouraged by how his injuries have come along in the last few days, but it's quite early ... to make a prognosis for what the extent of tissue injury will be to his feet," Schulz said.
Under New Hampshire law, Russell Cox could be required to reimburse the state for the cost of the two-day search that eventually rescued him from the mountain ridge where he and his wife spent two nights last week, said New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus. The state is looking into that possibility, he said.
Cox, 43, an engineer who designs computer chips for a North Shore company, spent the night of March 20 with his wife at a bed and breakfast before the two drove to Franconia the next morning, to the same trail they hiked about a year ago, he said.
"My wife and I have spent a number of weekends hiking in the White Mountains," he said. "We enjoy hiking in the winter: the trails are less crowded, the water is always fresh and cold, the scenery is always beautiful."
It was a roughly 10-mile loop to the summit of Mt. Lafayette, south along a ridge, over Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack Mountain, and down Falling Waters Trail to the parking lot. The two had monitored the weather, brought food and were prepared for poor weather, he said.
They were on the Old Bridle Path by about 8:30 a.m. By about 11 a.m., they reached a hut part way up and met hikers who said the weather was turning sour. They decided to hike to the summit of Mt. Lafayette, then turn around, Russell Cox said.
After they reached the top, they turned around and began back down. But in the worsening weather, they chose the wrong trail, heading north. They strained to see the rock piles marking the trail through the whirling snow and wind.
The realized they had gone the wrong way when they reached a junction slightly less than a mile down the trail. By then, they could see almost nothing, their ski goggles frosted over and the 75 mph winds tearing at them.
They built a snow cave and spent a relatively comfortable night. But when they emerged early the next morning, the weather had barely improved, and as they continued down the trail that they hoped would bring them to the highway, their damp clothes froze on their bodies.
Unable to find their snow cave, they crawled into a rocky nook, lying back to back so that Russell Cox shielded Brenda Cox from the weather. They talked into the night, but in time, she fell silent, and her husband knew she was dead.
He crawled from the cave the next morning to find a brilliantly clear and warm morning. He managed to flag down the helicopter, which spotted him after several passes and airlifted him to safety, he said.
"I have the greatest memories of Brenda from the years we spent together, because we had a wonderful relationship," Cox said, fighting back tears. "Brenda and I loved each other very much, and I'm very happy that we were together at the end."
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© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
DONT TAKE OUT "LITTLE" MOUNTAINS LIGHTLY. Mother Nature can kick your a** any time she wants.
Lafayette is not only the sixth-highest peak on the NH 4,000-footer list, it's the fourth most prominent peak in New England, according to the New England Fifty Finest List.