Hypothermic hiker Xi Chen dies after rescue from Presidential Range

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Battling icy-cold rain, snow and wind gusts over 80 mph, avid hiker Xi Chen had been forging ahead, desperate to reach shelter amid his Presidential Range traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.

The 53-year-old from Andover, Mass., had set out for the hike over Father’s Day weekend, but Chen sent a text to his wife Saturday evening when conditions in the mountains became treacherous, telling him he was cold and wet and could not keep going, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials said in a news release.

“In trouble … can’t move,” Chen texted, according to messages obtained by NBC10 Boston.

When his wife asked him whether she should call for emergency services, he replied, “Yes.”

The messages soon stopped.

Fish and Game Department officers had been busy fielding rescue calls from other hikers caught off guard by the winterlike weather. But because of Chen’s “dire” situation, officials said, rescue crews embarked on an immediate high-risk search for him Saturday night along the Gulfside Trail, near Mount Clay.

Crews found him about 10:30 pm, officials said, unresponsive and in “a highly hypothermic state.”

Officials said the rescuers tried to warm him at the site, then placed him on a stretcher and carried him more than a mile to the summit on Mount Washington. There, he was put into a truck and driven to a waiting ambulance.

Video shows rescuers in the dark toting a stretcher up a snowy incline with ferocious winds beating their bodies.

Chen was rushed to the Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, NH, where he died of his injuries, official said in a statement Monday.

His wife did not immediately respond Tuesday to a voice mail left by The Washington Post at a phone number listed for her and her husband.

He ran out of gas in Death Valley. Days later, he was dead, park says.

Chen was not the only hiker in crisis over the weekend. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department officials said weather, particularly on the summits, was harsh — freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, snow and 50-to-60-mph sustained winds with gusts over 80 mph. By midafternoon Saturday, officers had received a number of calls from hikers who found themselves unprepared “and instead of turning back or bailing out to safer elevations, they continued on and ultimately called 911 expecting a rescue,” officials said in the news release.

Officials said members of a mountain club rescued one hypothermic hiker, carrying her down to a shelter.

Another hiker who called for help from the Tuckerman Ravine Trail was aided by fellow hikers, who helped him find a hut where he could get warm.

And a group of hikers in distress called for assistance from the summit of Mount Eisenhower.

“Sometimes having enough gear is not enough. In weather experienced this weekend, it is better to descend and get out of the wind and cold instead of pushing on until it is too late,” officials said in the news release.

Chen’s wife told Boston 25 News that her husband had been trying to reach the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, a popular lodge for hikers overlooking a pair of mountain lakes between Mount Monroe and Mount Washington.

“He’s not a quitter — that probably actually got him into trouble this time,” she told NBC10 Boston.