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When Hikers Die, Why Are We So Quick to Judge?

When Hikers Die, Why Are We So Quick to Judge?

We are often quick to criticize those who perish outdoors. The author believes we should approach these tragedies with more compassion. Outside’s long reads email…

Saturday, Jan 14

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We are often quick to criticize those who perish outdoors. The author believes we should approach these tragedies with more compassion. Outside’s long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today .

On November 20, 2022, 19-year-old Emily Sotelo set out on a solo hike on New Hampshire’s Franconia Ridge. Her mom watched her disappear up the trail, expecting to meet up with Emily later that day at a prearranged spot.

Emily never showed up, and three days later, searchers recovered her body on the northwest side of 5,249-foot Mt. Lafayette. From news reports, it seemed she had gotten confused on a section of the Lafayette descent, lost her way, and succumbed to exposure as the temperatures dropped and winter weather blew in.

At first, I skimmed the news. I’d heard a hiker was missing in the White Mountains , and I’d been following the story. When her body was found, I felt a stab of sadness and regret that it had ended this way. Then, I pushed it out of my mind, I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to entertain the similarities between this 19-year-old hiker and the 19-year-old hiker I used to be, venturing solo on the same trails in pursuit of my own 4,000-footer list.

It wasn’t until I sent the article to my father in New Hampshire that I actually had to think about the tragedy with something other than surface-level consideration. My dad, […]

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