Before sunrise, one Monday morning in February last year, Kate Matrosova’s husband dropped her off at a trailhead in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. An experienced and well-equipped outdoorswoman, Matrosova planned to complete the Presidential Traverse that day, a hike that would see her eventually summit Mount Washington, after completing several lesser peaks leading to it. She would never be seen alive again.
Last week, I hiked up the mountain with Steve Dupuis, a local mountain guide and search and rescue volunteer. He was one of the first to respond when Matrosova’s personal locator beacon went off. He and his team would eventually brave wind gusts of 140 mph, and wind chill as low as -100 degrees trying to reach her. During the rescue attempt, the measured temperature of -35 degrees on the mountain’s summit made it the second coldest place on earth, after the South Pole.