Hiker who joined search for ‘lost’ teenager found frozen to death in New Hampshire pays tribute
A hiker whose friends were among those searching for the missing teen who was found frozen to death along a trail in New Hampshire said the journey was the young woman’s “coming of age experience.”
Jessie Callaghan paid tribute to the late Emily Sotelo, 19, who was found dead Wednesday after a grueling four-day search in Franconia Notch State Park.
Callaghan said she went hiking with Sotelo over the summer and believed the young hiker was probably frightened and desperate as she attempted to descend the mountain before getting lost on her solo hike.
“She had clearly completed the most dangerous part of the descent,” Callaghan wrote in a Facebook post, noting that Sotelo had been found further along the trail from where she was last seen, “but just barely made it.” Her body had given up. So close.’
“It was her birthday,” Callaghan added as Sotelo went on a trip days before she turned 20. “This was her ‘coming of age’ experience.”
Callaghan added that Sotelo’s mother was waiting for her in the parking lot after dropping her off at the start of the trail.
“I know I only briefly met her for a magical interlude in the woods,” Callaghan wrote. “Talk for a few miles. But her joy, when I met her, brought me joy. It’s just a shame that it’s been extinguished’.
While a cause of death has not yet been confirmed by an autopsy, police believe she died of exposure.
Originally from Massachusetts, Emily Sotelo made it to her planned destination, but at one point succumbed to sub-zero temperatures. Her body was found on Wednesday, on what would have been her 20th birthday
Fellow hiker Jessie Callaghan (above) who met Sotelo over the summer said the young hiker was likely scared and desperate as she attempted to descend the mountain before getting lost on her solo hike
Friends are now paying tribute to the 19-year-old, whose goal was to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s peaks before her 20th birthday.
“She made 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,” said her friend and fellow hiker Brian Garvey.
“This has happened before in the exact same area where she went off track in 2021. Luckily those guys saved it by defrosting their cell phones under their armpits and SAR found them before they froze.”
Callaghan commented, “She was sweet and so happy to be in the woods. She was young and ready to take on anything.’
Sotelo’s 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
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