Conservation Officer Matthew Holmes
January 4, 2019
Gorham, NH – In the late evening hours of Thursday, January 3, 2019, an overdue backcountry skier was located safely in the town of Gorham following a trip to explore new ski routes on Mt. Moriah.
At approximately 4:45 PM, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was notified by Gorham Police Dispatch of a skier who was potentially in distress somewhere on Mt. Moriah. The skier, identified as DeMarco Alvarez Leonardo, 20, of Gorham, New Hampshire had indicated to a family member during a phone call that things were not going well on the mountain and that he was becoming concerned. The call dropped, and the concerned family member began to make calls for help.
Following the initial report of the distressed skier, Conservation Officers learned that Leonardo’s brother had gone up the Carter-Moriah Trail to look for him. Leonardo was not located during this initial attempt, but family continued to try to put forth a lot of their own effort to find him. Leonardo’s father, Rodney Durand, hiked several miles up the Carter-Moriah Trail and then continued into the woods, off trail, to the area where he thought that his son may have ended up. With no contact having been made with Leonardo by 9:30 PM, Conservation Officers began a response to the area.
At approximately 10:20 PM, Leonardo arrived safely at his home after hiking out of the woods. Conservation Officers were able to confirm that he was okay, and then were able to make phone contact with Rodney Durand and confirm that he had been updated and was hiking out of the woods. Durand arrived safely on foot at his vehicle at approximately midnight and was soon reunited with his son at their home in Gorham.
During a follow-up interview, Conservation Officers learned that Leonardo had been intrigued by potential backcountry ski routes on a rock slide located just below the summit of Mt. Moriah. He had hiked up the Carter-Moriah Trail and then hiked overland to the rock slide, encountering very deep snow along the way. Fighting through the deep snow, Leonardo’s progress had been slowed considerably. Once at the rock slide, Leonardo had skied as far down as he could and then had begun to hike out the Pea Brook drainage toward US Route 2 in Shelburne. Altering his route after consulting a map, he had turned on his headlamp and navigated toward the lights of the town of Gorham. He eventually came into a network of logging roads which subsequently brought him back to town much later than he had intended.
Conservation Officers would like to remind outdoor enthusiasts that electronic communication often fails in the mountains and that previously established itineraries greatly aid in planning search and rescue operations when things do not go as planned.