• Welcome to Sleuth the Wild, a new space with room to stretch out and explore the nooks and crannies of wilderness mysteries, mishaps, and the missing. Start by hitting that REGISTER button, choose an original (not in use elsewhere) handle, and email Lost Mitten if an issue develops. Bring your friends, sleuths, outdoorsy folks, experts, newbies...Help us develop something special here, find some answers, and learn new skills. You never know, one day you could be the missing or the mystery we solve...
  • Temporary contact for Admin: lostmitten@sleuththewild.com

Deceased NH - Emily Sotelo, 20, missing at Franconia Notch in the White Mountains; Nov 2022

I Am A Rock

For Real
Oh, dear. The "experience" word again.

"Her parents told News 9 that Sotelo is an experienced hiker but does not have much winter hiking experience." I guess this just means "she's done a bunch of trails", since she's barely 20, and teens generally have had very little experience in a whole lot of anything. If she'd been out regularly with a well-established hiking club (like the AMC) and got her "experience" from hanging out with them, I'd feel more optimistic.
I’m not sure I’ve ever met a parent who thinks of their teenage child as “experienced” in much of any dimension. Just sayin’.
 

I Am A Rock

For Real
The Daily Mail has their map wrong. The planned route is way longer. ES was reportedly going to Lafayette, Haystack, and Flume. That means she was also going to Liberty. Flume is next south on the ridge to Liberty.

I suppose it's possible the mom got the route wrong?
The mom might have got the route wrong, but she said she saw ES head up the trail. The trail goes to the Lafayette ridge. Lafayette ridge is the problem here, no matter where you are on it. It doesn’t really matter if she planned on Lincoln, Liberty, Flume…. The ascent to the ridge, the ridge itself, and the descent from the ridge are 3 elements in the plan, regardless.
 

Nitty Gritty

Hangin' Out
I'm baaack! And we're down to the nitty gritty.

A second night out and two days below freezing? There's no way.

I'm very clumsy with Gaia, but.... I noticed sunrise is around 6:50 am. If mom dropped off ES at 5 am, she was heading up the trail for almost 2 hours in more or less darkness? The trail ES went on is on the west side of that ridge, too, so it would be in the shadow of the dawn sun. DARK. DARK and FRIGID.
 

I Am A Rock

For Real
I'm baaack! And we're down to the nitty gritty.

A second night out and two days below freezing? There's no way.

I'm very clumsy with Gaia, but.... I noticed sunrise is around 6:50 am. If mom dropped off ES at 5 am, she was heading up the trail for almost 2 hours in more or less darkness? The trail ES went on is on the west side of that ridge, too, so it would be in the shadow of the dawn sun. DARK. DARK and FRIGID.
Yeah, @Nitty Gritty has re-emerged.

On the 5 am start…. It’s being reported that ES took no light with her. Whaaaaaaaat? How would she have got anywhere? It wasn’t just pre-dawn: the ascent starts in woods.

Little food and water, either….

Searchers returned to base about 3 hours ago.

 

Nitty Gritty

Hangin' Out
Yeah, @Nitty Gritty has re-emerged.

On the 5 am start…. It’s being reported that ES took no light with her. Whaaaaaaaat? How would she have got anywhere? It wasn’t just pre-dawn: the ascent starts in woods.

Little food and water, either….

Searchers returned to base about 3 hours ago.

The spokesperson seems to be saying the snow on the ridge is chest-deep.
 

Nitty Gritty

Hangin' Out
Looking at the map. Maybe a local can give insight...

That's a ridge from Lafayette all the way to Flume pretty much?
ES had a couple of spots she could get down to the highway. One nearish Lincoln. Is that Haystack in the missing poster? She could go down the trail near Liberty. That's AT, correct?

The clips from ^^^ say the signs were iced over. You'd need a map to know your options.
You are correct: the trail off the ridge near Mount Liberty and heading down to I-93 is the AT. IIRC It might be difficult to get down in icy conditions.
Descending the east flank of the ridge as discussed ^^^ would be easier.
Do we even know if ES carried a map?
Her phone battery was going to die because of the cold. She maybe had no other map but on her phone?
 
K

Kaboom!

Guest
You are correct: the trail off the ridge near Mount Liberty and heading down to I-93 is the AT. IIRC It might be difficult to get down in icy conditions.
Descending the east flank of the ridge as discussed ^^^ would be easier.
Do we even know if ES carried a map?
Her phone battery was going to die because of the cold. She maybe had no other map but on her phone?
Oh, no, you’re right. ES maybe had no way to route-find at all, because her phone battery would have died in the cold.
There’s no telling where she could have gone, in that case. She had no way even to know if she was on a trail, with that kind of snow on the ground.
 

Breaking Trail

In the Groove
Would it be possible to think Garfield was Liberty if you hadn't been up there before?
Maybe yes if you had no way to orient yourself. For instance, can you see the interstate? Can you see Mt Washington? Can you see Cannon right across the way?
But ES might not have familiarized herself with these when she was preparing the hike. She might have known nothing, but just expected to peak-bag her 4,000 footers, as was evidently her goal. Something like, “There’s Mount X. It’s on my list. I’ll hike up Mount X. There’s the trailhead. The trail will take me there. Cross another one off the list.” ES might have been able to do this on the rest of her list. Simple out and back, without much thought to direction or landmarks. She probably just followed AllTrails, or something.
 
Last edited:

Sora

In the Groove
Yeah, @Nitty Gritty has re-emerged.

On the 5 am start…. It’s being reported that ES took no light with her. Whaaaaaaaat? How would she have got anywhere? It wasn’t just pre-dawn: the ascent starts in woods.

Little food and water, either….

Searchers returned to base about 3 hours ago.

Bolded by me -
She could so easily have gone off trail very, very quickly with minimal light.
Let’s say her phone torch even worked for a bit before the phone stopped working due to cold - I don’t know this trail but I can imagine it would be easy to mistake an opening in the trees for the trail ahead, and go off trail without realizing it.
Early on! Maybe in the first half hour.
 

Breaking Trail

In the Groove
Bolded by me -
She could so easily have gone off trail very, very quickly with minimal light.
Let’s say her phone torch even worked for a bit before the phone stopped working due to cold - I don’t know this trail but I can imagine it would be easy to mistake an opening in the trees for the trail ahead, and go off trail without realizing it.
Early on! Maybe in the first half hour.
Are you saying a minimal light could deceive her into thinking there was a trail where there wasn’t? It would be almost worse than no light?
Well, that’s a thought….
 

One Fat Marmot

Diggin' It
Grumbling… Something’s been bugging me about this case. Well, a lotta things….

Parents?

The parents are trying to make this about ES not having “winter hiking experience”, when actually she wasn’t even prepared for summer. The colonel (not sure his exact title) mentions light, food, water, and somewhere in there her skimpy outfit. These are NH SAR pet bugaboos in summer, too.
 

Sora

In the Groove
Are you saying a minimal light could deceive her into thinking there was a trail where there wasn’t? It would be almost worse than no light?
Well, that’s a thought….
Something like that - I don’t know that cell phone torch light would be worse than no light, but it would not be sufficient for seeing well where the trail led.
I don’t know this trail so maybe it is wide and clear and easy to follow in the dark or near dark, but I have my doubts.
 

One Fat Marmot

Diggin' It
You're making total sense....

I'm looking at the map. What if ES was hiking down into Loon Mountain? She's from near Boston. Maybe her family is staying at Loon, which is a resort.

This map abuts the one we have ^^^^. It's from AllTrails

View attachment 75
This would be much safer than the loop. You’d get to the road. Then you could flag someone down.
 

Cabin Fever

Laidback
Something like that - I don’t know that cell phone torch light would be worse than no light, but it would not be sufficient for seeing well where the trail led.
I don’t know this trail so maybe it is wide and clear and easy to follow in the dark or near dark, but I have my doubts.
This sometimes happens to me: light-dark plays tricks with your mind when you’re hiking. If it’s dark, and you have a light, it eliminates peripheral vision. Sometimes, the light doesn’t shine much past your feet. You can’t get a big picture. You could easily think there’s a trail, when in daylight you would know there wasn’t one.
 

Bucket Hat

Administrator
Something like that - I don’t know that cell phone torch light would be worse than no light, but it would not be sufficient for seeing well where the trail led.
I don’t know this trail so maybe it is wide and clear and easy to follow in the dark or near dark, but I have my doubts.
Most trails in the Whites are very steep, and get rocky under foot. The west has switchbacks. Not NH!

The trail up from Lafayette Place Campground is super popular, so between people and heavy use, it is clear, but…. the Whites get snow, even sometimes in summer. Snow makes a trail invisible. From the SAR videos, there’s snow on the trail now. This is not good…
 
Top