A teenage girl who froze to death on a hiking trail in New Hampshire was working towards her goal of climbing all 48 peaks in New Hampshire when she missed a turn on her descent and got lost.
Emily Sotelo, 19, died in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire. Her body was found yesterday after a grueling four-day search.
She had gone for a walk alone on Sunday morning and was dropped off at the trail by her mother. While a cause of death has not yet been confirmed by an autopsy, police believe she died of exposure.
Friends are now paying tribute to the 19-year-old, who would have turned 20 this week. Her goal was to climb all 48 peaks in New Hampshire before her 20th birthday.
She made it to all three summits she wanted and unfortunately on the descent she missed the turn which is hard to find on a windy day or just in general.
“This has happened before in the exact same area where she went off track in 2021. Luckily those guys got through by thawing their cell phones under their armpits and SAR found them before they froze,” her friend and fellow hiker Brian Garvey said.
Originally from Massachusetts, Emily Sotelo made it to her planned destination, but at one point succumbed to freezing temperatures that dropped to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Her body was found on Wednesday, on what would have been her 20th birthday
Her body, officials said, was found on the northwest slope of Mount Lafayette within the boundaries of Franconia Notch State Park, where she had hiked four days earlier. It’s not yet known when or how she died, but officials said on Wednesday it was likely due to exposure
“She was sweet and so happy to be in the woods. She was young and ready to take on anything,” Jessie Callaghan, who met her on a previous hiking trip, said on Facebook.
The sprawling four-day quest effort, she added, was “hampered by high winds, frigid temperatures and blowing snow” — ultimately proving suspicion that Sotelo could not have survived those conditions on her own.
Upon making the grim discovery, officials called in a National Guard helicopter to retrieve Sotelo’s body from the mountainside.
Fish and Game officer David Walsh warned hikers about the dangers of hiking while underclothed in the state’s infamous White Mountains, an area often considered treacherous in the winter.
“The biggest lesson you can learn from a tragedy like this is that when hiking in New Hampshire, especially in the White Mountains, you have to be prepared for the unexpected,” he told WMUR-TV.
During their search, officials said, temperatures had dropped to “about zero,” with wind speeds making the chill factor -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Walsh warned others with plans to hike the dangerous mountain range to take necessary precautions and take the dangers of the winter season seriously.
Officials who searched for four days, they added, were “hampered by high winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow” — finally proving their suspicions that Sotelo could not have survived those conditions alone
“Be prepared with knowledge,” the official said. Know the weather conditions. Dress for the weather conditions. Provide extra clothing. Provide extra food, water. Get a headlamp map, a compass.’
New Hampshire conservation officials said searchers found the body of Sotelo, a 5’3″ sophomore at Vanderbilt University, at 11:15 a.m. She was an avid hiker and had been close to her goal of summiting New Hampshire’s 48 peaks. conquer the 4000 feet before you turn 20
Sotelo, her parents said, planned to hike several trails in the area, but wasn’t dressed for the frigid weather that soon followed her departure.
Temperatures dipped to “about zero,” with winds making the chill factor -30 degrees Fahrenheit, Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team officials said. said Sunday during the start of their search.
Fish and Game officers and volunteers from more than a dozen search and rescue teams would then spend the next several days combing the area, using aircraft and sniffer dogs, eventually finding a trail and items left behind by Sotelo. at the headwaters of Lafayette Brook on Tuesday afternoon.
However, by nightfall, officials reclassified their efforts from a rescue mission to one involving just recovery.
“Pemi has three teams looking for this missing hiker tonight,” the search team said in a Facebook post at the time.
Officials said Wednesday that Sotelo, an avid hiker, had nearly reached her goal of conquering New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet before she turned 20.
“Sunday night’s weather conditions were single-digit temperatures, winds of 40 to 60 miles per hour, blowing snow, and she wasn’t dressed accordingly for those temperatures,” Walsh told WMUR-TV on Wednesday.
“Those are extreme conditions and then she went off track.”
Sotelo was a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and chemical biology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
In a letter to students Wednesday, Vice Provost GL Black mourned Sotelo, noting how she had become an active member of the community since transferring from the College of William & Mary this year.
Mount Lafayette reaches a 5,260 foot peak and the surrounding trail was rated “difficult” by 4000Footers.com. It is located in the state’s infamous White Mountains, a mountain range that is often considered treacherous in the winter
Emily was last seen Sunday morning after her mother dropped her off at a trailhead near Mount Lafayette, where her body was eventually found