One of two rescued High Peak hikers returns to hospital

December 15, 2016 08:42 AM

WARRENSBURG -- Department of Environmental Conservation Ranger Patrols and State Police spent all day Monday searching for Blake Alois and Maddie Popolizio by foot, often pushing through chest high snow to the top and across the summit of Algonquin Mountain.  Snow storms and cloud coverage grounded helicopters usually used in a search operation but the 50-60 member professional rescue team, however, didn't give up.

"It was a long day and we had no Blake or Maddie or clues to their whereabouts," recalls Captain John Streiff, a DEC Forest Ranger.

A single cell phone ping, before the Niskayuna couple's phones died, did focus the search to the west and south sides of the High Peak.  On Tuesday, the clouds and storm cleared and two choppers made it in.  But it was a ground crew, on foot because snowmobiles could only make it so far, who first heard Maddie and Blake's yells and located them after the hikers heard the helicopters and knew help was on the way.

"We were all pretty ecstatic.  We knew we had them and alive but not sure of conditions at that point...cold and wet but both alive."

The couple had veered off the trail and fallen through a snow encrusted tree canopy.  They stayed put and even used snow to build a berm that kept the elements out.  Even after they were located it took the chopper 12 attempts before the could be harnessed, hoisted up and finally flown to safety.

The temps, time and weather were not on the rescuers' side but two lives were saved at 5100 feet on Tuesday.

Blake is expected to recover fully and Maddie is recovering from minor frost bite.

Winter Hike Tips from the Department of Environmental Conservation:

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Abigail Bleck

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