Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

Acra Point, Black Dome, Blackhead Mtn, Burnt Knob, Dutchers Notch, Elm Ridge, Thomas Cole, Windham High Peak

Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby dave » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:00 pm

Two hikers from Poughkeepsie New York set out on the Blackhead Mountain range for a day hike. There was a large rain storm for casted for the weekend. It was for casted as a stalled Noreaster storm. They were expecting up to 5 inches of rain in the Catskills. Possibly with high winds. In some areas they expected snow, sleet, and rain. The northern mountains of the Catskills would get more snow then other areas.

Hensonville Fire Department and the New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers were involved in the search. The NYS DEC Forest Rangers were able to contact the lost hikers by cell phone on Sunday, March 14, 2010. From the conversation they had with the lost hikers, they were able to narrow down the location to Blackhead Mountain.

Two weeks ago, this area received up to 7 feet of snow. Many of the trail markers were under the snow, and the trails were hard to follow. It would be easy to get lost under certain circumstances.

The hikers were found, and were suffering from severe dehydration and hypothermia. Normally a helicopter from Albany Med would have been flown in, but it was still raining and foggy. SAR and the DEC will bring the hikers down by foot. Blackhead is a steep and difficult mountain to climb.

MAJOR UPDATE - March 16 & March 17:

Over the last two days, we have received a large amount of information. Unfortunately, some of that information was incorrect. Some information contradicted other information. This rescue effort involved a large group of people from many agencies, as well as, private individuals. So lets try to restate the story again:

Two men, Alberto Risenberg, 50, of Virgina, and Seth Lyon, 49, of Poughkeepsie decided to hike Blackhead, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole Mountains. Both men are wise and experienced hikers.

Weather.gov had been fore casting a significant storm for the Catskill Mountains from Friday, March 12, 2010 thru Monday March 15, 2010. They were fore casting up to 5 inches of rain. Towards the end of the week, the fore cast changed to a mix of rain, sleet, and snow. It was also fore casted that there would be high winds during this storm. This storm was a noreaster. It should also be noted that Blackhead Mountain had received up to 7 feet of snow two weeks prior. Trails were difficult to follow due to the snow pack covering signs and trail markers.

On Friday, March 12, 2010 both men headed to the Blackhead Parking lot on Big Hollow Road. From there they hiked up to the Batavia Kill Lean-To. Here the setup camp and stayed the night at the lean-to. They used the Lean-to as their base camp.

On Saturday, March 13, 2010 at approximately 7:30 AM the men headed out up the north access of Blackhead Mountain. They left their packs back at the lean-to. But, they did bring a small amount of supplies. From there they headed west to Black Dome and Thomas Cole Mountain. During the day the storm came in and heavy snow started to fall, and the winds picked up to gale force. This reduced the visibility to a very short distance. It is reported that they could only 15 feet in front of them. With the snow pack so high, and the trail hard to follow, they lost track of the trail. They then started back up Blackhead Mountain. Due to a white-out conditions they missed the north access path that would have taken them back to the Batavia Lean-to. They then started to head down the east side of Blackhead Mountain towards Dutchers Notch. The peak of Blackhead Mountain is 3942', and they descended to approximately 3700'. This location was 1/4 to 1/2 mile east of the summit of Blackhead Mountain. At approximately 9:30PM they called 911 and told them that they were in trouble and needed help. Unfortunately, at that time they did not know where they were. This fact would significantly slow down rescue efforts. They tried to tell DEC Forest Rangers where they were, but the DEC could not figure out where they were. That evening they built a snow shelter which was a very wise choice. Both men huddled together in the snow shelter with a blanket they brought with them. The Forest Ranger would return in the morning to start the rescue effort.

First thing on Sunday morning, March 14, 2010 Seth Lyon set out on foot to get help for his friend. Due to his frostbite hands and feet, he was unable to put his snowshoes back on. He set out to get help for his friend Alberto, who was suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. Ten DEC forest rangers, Hensonville Fire Department, SAR from New York and New Jersey, State Police, and Sheriff participated in the search. They sweep the trails looking for the men. Very difficult weather conditions seriously hampered the search. Around 8:55 PM rescuers found Alberto Risenberg. Due to the lateness of the day, rescuers gave Alberto a change of cloths, and setup a shelter for the night. Alberto legs were too cold to walk, so they setup a shelter so that they could get him warmed up.

On Monday Morning, March 15, 2010, rescuers and Alberto Risenberg set out to leave Blackhead Mountain. Alberto Risenberg was able to walk down by himself. He arrived at the trail head that morning. Alberto did not need medical help. Rescuers had a hard time finding Seth. Finally, they used pinging of his cell phone to locate him. When they finally did reach him, had had already died. Later in the afternoon rescuers found Seth Lyon 100' from the original snow shelter. Seth died on the mountain, and it is believed that he died of hypothermia. An autopsy will be done on March 16, 2010. Rescuers did bring down Seth by snowmobile part of the way, and carried him in the more difficult sections.

According the SAR and the DEC this rescue was exceedingly difficult and prolonged.


At this early date the following mistakes were made:
1. They underestimated the weather conditions for that weekend.
2. They didn't consult with other hikers about hiking conditions with this unusual high snow pack. This high snow pack has surprised many very experienced hikers. Many hikers were getting lost during sunny weather. During a blizzard, it would be exceedingly difficult to follow.
3. They didn't have a topo GPS. Having one would have saved Seth's life, and gotten them out of the woods on Saturday. A topo GPS would have allowed them to backtrack accurately in a white-out.
4. They left their packs behind with life saving gear.
5. They didn't have bright colored tape to mark their path once weather got bad. This would have helped rescuers find them quicker.
6. Seth broke a cardinal rule of breaking up the group, and it cost him his life.

The things they did do right:
1. They had good gear at the lean-to.
2. They had a cell phone, which was charged.
3. They had the rare skills of how to build a snow shelter, which saved Alberto's life.
4. They huddled together with a blanket.
5. They called 911 when they knew that they were really in trouble. Probably should have called earlier.

The men did have snowshoes, compass, blanket, cell phones. They did not have a topo GPS.
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby mike » Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:14 pm

From what I understand, they have 20 DEC forest rangers, State Police, and Hensonville Fire Dept SAR out looking for them. There is concern that they will not be found today. A medivac helicopter did fly up there. We don't know the details. The Hensonville Fire Department is the command center.
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby Magoo » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:05 pm

Does anyone have an update? I heard through friends that one hiker was located last night and coming down under his own power thanks to some very good and very brave rescuers but I was wondering if the other hiker (Seth) was located yet?
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby dave » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:06 pm

The Hensonville Fire Dept Command Center has informed us that they have rescued one person alive, and the other person is dead. Very sad outcome.
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby dave » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:07 pm

Magoo, Do you know the names of the hikers?
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby Magoo » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:40 pm

yes
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby Magoo » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:48 pm

Why do you want to know? I'm sure there is a protocol of making sure the family finds out first
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby Magoo » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:54 pm

theres a report on the internet from your news now that said both were found and are alive. That was at noon; where does your info come from Dave
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby dave » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:47 pm

The hiking world is small. Many people here on this forum and other forums might know these two people. People want to know if one of their friends was involved. Secondly, this information has been released to the press. We didn't get that information because we we forgot to ask. We already know that their ages are 49 and 50 and one of them worked at Dutchess Cty Community College. By tomorrow everyone will know, except for his friends. It would be nice if it was the other way around.

It is our understanding that the family already knows. As always, we try to be respectful to the family.

The information came from someone who stopped by the command center, and did convey the information to us incorrectly. We also get tips from people who Email us information. Other times, we go right to the location to get information. Unfortunately, getting accurate information is always a challenge. We do try to get it right. It is more hurtful to the family when the information is not correct.

We were up at the trail head about an hour ago. There are still two rangers there along with a NJ SAR and NY SAR member. Unfortunately your friend's car is also there.
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Re: Lost Hikers on Blackhead Mtn Range

New postby dave » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:59 pm

According to DEC officials Seith Lyon of Poughkeepsie New York attempted to get help for his friend Alberto Risenberg. Rescuers located Alberto Risenberg Sunday night by his cell phone signal. On Monday morning rescuers found Risenberg suffering from hypothermia.

On Monday afternoon rescuers found Seith Lyon's body. Sadly, rescuers were not able to get to Seith Lyon in time. Ironically, he was found 100 feet from where Alberto Risenberg was rescued the night before.

At the trailhead of Blackhead Mtn on Big Hollow Road had received 8" of very wet snow. There was more snow further up the mountain. It continued to snow all day Monday on Blackhead and the trail head. Rescuers said that the weather and snow made this rescue effort very difficult. With the seven feet of snow that was received on Blackhead Mtn two weeks earlier traveling was very hard.

Risenberg reported that they huddled together to keep warm. But, at some point Seith Lyons attempted to get help. Risenberg said that his legs were so frozen that he could not move them. We have to presume that they did not have snowshoes. Risenberg was very grateful to his rescuers.

As of 5 pm this evening two DEC forest rangers were still on the mountain along with two SAR members from NY and NJ. The command center at Hensonville Fire House was winding down, but still maned.
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