Lt. James Kneeland
July 17, 2023
Franconia, NH – Just before 9:00 p.m., NH Fish and Game Conservation Officers were made aware of an injured hiker near the Kinsman Ridge Trail on Cannon Mountain. The solo hiker reported that he had lost the trail and as he was trying to make his way back to the summit of Cannon Mountain so that he could find the trail he fell off a ledge landing on rocks 20-30 feet below. During the fall the hiker suffered serious upper-body injuries. The injured hiker advised that he was currently situated on another rocky ledge that was too steep to move in any direction without falling further.
Conservation Officers with ATVs and volunteers from Pemi Valley Search and Rescue Team responded to Cannon Mountain. The first team of rescuers was able to access the summit by ATV and started towards the hiker’s location on foot at 10:45 p.m. By 11:15 p.m., the team had made voice contact but due to the steep, thickly vegetated terrain, the team did not actually arrive at the hiker’s location until around midnight. While situated precariously on the ledge, the team was able to stabilize the injured hiker’s injuries and eventually able to place him in a harness so that they could safely lower him by rope to the more stable ground below.
Somehow the hiker was able to summon the energy to bushwhack with assistance the 500 feet back to the Kinsman Ridge Trail and the final half mile up the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the Summit of Cannon Mountain. State Park personnel had arrived at the mountain and sent a tram car to the summit to help bring supplies up and the hiker back down the mountain. Just before 3:00 a.m., the entire rescue team arrived at the tram building and were safely at the bottom shortly thereafter. Visibility was quite poor during the entirety of the rescue as thick clouds, rain, and lightning had arrived at the start of the rescue and were present throughout. The injured hiker was taken by Littleton Fire Rescue to Littleton Regional Healthcare for evaluation of his injuries.
The 21-year-old Marlborough, Massachusetts, man was identified as Matthew Blessing. Blessing is a self-described inexperienced hiker who learned of this hike from a coworker. He was not well equipped for a day hike and lacked a map, light source, and raingear.
Steady rain has fallen over the month of June and into the early part of July in New Hampshire, which has caused slippery trail conditions and led to many of the injuries seen by Conservation Officers recently. Appropriate footwear should be worn while hiking; hiking boots that provide support, protection, and traction are strongly recommended. For safe hiking tips and a list of essential gear, visit hikesafe.com. Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to purchase a Hike Safe card at wildnh.com/safe. The card helps support Fish and Game search and rescue activities.