Rescued hiker, climber grateful to state, volunteer searchers
Two men who faced almost certain death hiking and climbing in separate accidents five years apart in the mountains of New Hampshire know the utter joy of being rescued, the chance to live another day.
Both say they are grateful for the work of New Hampshire Fish and Game, and the work of many other rescuers who saved their lives.
James Osborne, 41, of Manchester made peace with his world five years ago and prepared to die in a mountain blizzard. On Feb. 10, 2008, he and his friend, Fred Fredrickson, set out — ill-prepared — for a winter hike in Franconia Notch.
Neither packed a sleeping bag. They didn't keep a close eye on the weather and had no way to make a fire, Osborne said.
They weren't prepared for the 70 mph winds, sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow that made it almost impossible to walk or see, Osborne said.
Thirty-six hours after their outing began, rescuers found Osborne face down in the snow, unconscious on Little Stack Mountain. His friend wasn't so lucky. Fredrickson was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"I think I am stronger," Osborne said. "What doesn't kill you does make you stronger."
Osborne lost his lower right leg and toes on his left foot.
On Saturday, Osborne, a teacher at Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy, set out on a seven-day bicycle ride in California to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
"The remarkable thing about the experience is that without the people of New Hampshire Fish and Game, the National Guard, volunteers and the excellent care I got at Dartmouth-Hitchcook, I wouldn't be who I am today," Osborne said.
New Boston's Eric Scoville, 56, set off to solo ice climb Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch on March 16 without ropes or other gear to arrest a fall. He lost his footing and crashed 70 feet down, bouncing off rocks as he fell.
"I should have been at God's door," Scoville said.
Scoville continues to recover at his mother's home from a head injury, collapsed lungs, broken ribs and cracked vertebrae.
While mistakes were made in both incidents, they were not deemed negligent by the state, according to Fish and Game Col. Martin Garabedian.
Scoville, a self-employed carpenter, supports the hike safe card plan.
Proposed legislation would encourage hikers to buy the card for $25 a year.
Although the state can charge negligent hikers for reasonable rescue costs, those would be waived if the rescued person had purchased the card, much like an insurance plan.
"The insurance card idea is a good one. … It's a good middle of the road plan," Scoville said.