FRANCONIA -- A mother and daughter hiking the Falling Waters/Bridal Path Loop Thursday were rescued from the summit of Mount Lafayette when they became stranded in high winds and whiteout conditions, officials said.
Conservation officers were alerted about 3:15 p.m. that Catherine Courtemanche, 24, and her mother, Nathalie Beaudet, 54, both of Sherbrook, Quebec, were atop the mountain and couldn't find the rock cairns marking the Greenleaf Trail down to treeline, according to a news release.
The pair searched for about an hour, but afraid of heading off trail in the poor conditions, they returned to the summit and took shelter behind some rocks, officials said. Visibility at the summit was only a few feet.
Fish and Game conservation officers and volunteers from the Mountain Rescue Service met at the trailhead about 4:10 p.m., with weather above tree line forecast to be bad overnight, with 60 mph winds, temperatures in the mid-teens and little to no visibility, according to the release, before beginning their rescue ascent about 6 p.m.
Rescuers contacted the women about once an hour during their 4-mile hike up the mountain, with a team reaching the pair -- who were beginning to show symptoms of hypothermia -- about 9:30 p.m., the release said.
Aided by GPS in high winds and blowing snow, the group was able to descend to treeline, making it to the Greenleaf Hut just after 10 p.m. and arriving at the trailhead about 11:30 p.m., officials said.
According to the news release, both women were experienced hikers equipped with winter clothing and equipment, but they did not have a compass or some other navigational equipment to help them in the severe conditions they encountered.
The pair credited their rescuers with saving their lives, indicating they didn't think they would have survived the night on the mountain, the release said.
After resting for a while, the mother and daughter were able to drive home, officials said.