Tours Travel

Remember the Mount Hood tragedy "Close to death" for Dr. Bernie Dahl on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire

As the Mt. Hood tragedy of three lost climbers unfolded in Oregon and in the media, I was once again forced to revisit my own near-death experience at Mt. Washington.

I was very lucky when Mike Pelcher, the leader of the rescue team, made the pronouncement to his troubled team: “There is a man dying there. Let’s give him five more minutes.”

It really was a dark and stormy night, perhaps the darkest and most stormy night of my life, because I arrived within five minutes of death. . . my death. . . Because my rescuers were about to surrender! As a physician and pathologist for more than 30 years, he had developed a close professional relationship with death and dying. . . but not with my death. . . certainly not with my own death.

Rescued from his near-death experience, I, now a motivational speaker and seminar leader, moved on to share my “Living Lessons from a Mount Washington Misfortune.” In my inspiring talks on self-discovery, he warns: Prepare to die! Have a plan for living! Do it now!

In New Hampshire, Mt. Washington is known for its fierce and unforgiving weather, and the New England media, motivated by the story of Mt. Hood, have contacted me about his mountain rescue.

His calls have rekindled my interest in finishing my book, a hybrid book on the history of the mountain, the warnings and the philosophical part, ‘Journey Into The Self’. I have presented my story in keynotes and workshops more than 50 times. From the scripts, I have produced a draft of a book, tentatively titled simply “Misfortune.” “

My story of being lost in the mountains, successful use of my cell phone, and my dramatic rescue was the subject of a later reenactment that was filmed by The Discovery Channel Network for their Storm Force series on The Learning Channel.

Here is the beginning of Chapter 1 – A Simple Walk. . . a deadly mission:

Without a moment’s hesitation, I step onto the new path. Now I am ascending by the wind that screams towards the top. This is not the goal of the new plan – the goal is to find Auto Road and get off the mountain as quickly as possible.

The snow stings my face with its fury. Frosty ice, formed by icy fog or clouds from the scorching wind, covers my clothes, my face, and my glasses. I notice that the cairns, the rock piles that mark the trail, are now wider and taller and closer and closer, an ominous sign that this area must experience some really severe winter weather. I take each step slowly and carefully, because this road is now much more rugged; it appears to be composed of large rocks covered with increasing and varying depths of snow and ice.

My heart beats fast, more out of fear than effort, because my ascent is very slow, very deliberate. Despite the roaring wind, I can hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears. Even though I know I’m close to Auto Road, I also know that I have a big problem. I feverishly search for the second sign, the one that should lead me to Auto Road. Where is? Is it covered in frost? Has a hiker taken it as a souvenir?

I must keep walking even though I am still ascending with the wind. Worse yet, it is late now. Soon, the night will envelop the mountain and me. My wide-open world is now getting closer. A powerful gust of wind and snow suddenly hits me … then again, like the icy breath of an angry mountain god. Now I am in true whitening condition. Where is the next landmark? I desperately continue: five steps, then ten. No milestone. I retrace my steps until the last milestone. I find it. If you only had one hiking partner, we could take turns finding the next milestone, which are generally 15-20 feet apart. Together, we could take a leap on our way to Auto Road and our home. I start this process again … and again … I can’t find the next landmark.

I am alone. I’m stuck. I stop.

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