Body of teenage hiker who disappeared on popular New Hampshire trail found after four day search

The body of a teenage girl who disappeared Sunday on a hiking trail in New Hampshire has been found – on what would have been the girl’s 20th birthday.

New Hampshire conservation officials revealed Wednesday that search parties found the body of Emily Sotelo, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, at roughly 11 am.

Her body, officials said, was found on the northwest face of Mount Lafayette within the confines of Franconia Notch State Park, where she had set out on a hike days prior.

Sotelo was last seen wearing a brown jacket, exercise pants, and sneakers – clothes searchers warned were not warm enough to brave frigid temperatures seen in the area this time of year.

Their sprawling four-day search effort, they added, was ‘hampered by high winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow’ – and ultimately proved suspicions that Sotelo could not have survived those conditions on her own.

sotelo, 19, was last seen by her mother at around 5am on Sunday when she dropped her off at a trailhead leading to Mount Lafayette, Haystack, and Flume in Franconia.

The girl, who was originally from Massachusetts, would make it to her destination, but at some point succumbed to subzero temperatures that dropped as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Upon making the grim discovery, officials called in a national guard helicopter to retrieve Sotelo’s body from the mountain face. A cause of death was not immediately provided, but officials said it was likely due to exposure.

Emily Sotelo, who was originally from Massachusetts, made it to her planned destination , but at some point succumbed to subzero temperatures that dropped as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Her body was found Wednesday, on what would have been her 20th birthday

Her body, officials said, was found on the northwest face of Mount Lafayette within the confines of Franconia Notch State Park, where she had set out on a hike four days prior. It is not yet known when or how she died, but officials said Wednesday it was likely due to exposure

Her body, officials said, was found on the northwest face of Mount Lafayette within the confines of Franconia Notch State Park, where she had set out on a hike four days prior. It is not yet known when or how she died, but officials said Wednesday it was likely due to exposure

Fish and Game officer David Walsh warned hikers of the dangers of hiking while underdressed in the state’s infamous White Mountains, a range commonly perceived as treacherous during winter.

‘The biggest lessons learned in a tragedy like this is when you’re hiking in New Hampshire, especially in the White Mountains, be prepared for the unexpected,’ he told WMUR-TV.

During their search, officials said, temperatures had dropped to ‘about zero’, with windspeeds making the chill factor -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Walsh warned others with plans to hike the dangerous mountain range to take the necessary precautions and take the dangers that come with the winter season seriously.

Officials sprawling four-day search effort, they added, was 'hampered by high winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow' - and ultimately proved their suspicions that Sotelo could not have survived those conditions on her own

Officials sprawling four-day search effort, they added, was ‘hampered by high winds, cold temperatures and blowing snow’ – and ultimately proved their suspicions that Sotelo could not have survived those conditions on her own

Fish and Game officer David Walsh said Sotelo's death should serve as a warning to all hikers of the dangers that come with winter excursions. He warned hikers of the dangers of hiking while underdressed in the White Mountains, a range often perceived as treacherous during winter

Fish and Game officer David Walsh said Sotelo’s death should serve as a warning to all hikers of the dangers that come with winter excursions. He warned hikers of the dangers of hiking while underdressed in the White Mountains, a range often perceived as treacherous during winter

‘Be prepared with knowledge,’ the official said. ‘Know the weather conditions. Dress for the weather conditions. Have extra clothes. Have extra food, water. Have a headlamp map, a compass.’

Sotelo, her parents said, had planned to hike various trails in the area but was not dressed for the frigid cold weather that quickly followed her departure.

Temperatures dropped to ‘about zero’, with windspeeds making the chill factor -30 degrees Fahrenheit, officials with the Pemigewasset Valley Search and Rescue Team said Sunday during the outset 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 scent dogs, eventually finding a trail and items left by Sotelo at the headwaters of Lafayette Brook on Tuesday afternoon.

However, by nightfall, officials reclassified their efforts from a rescue mission to one relating to just recovery.

New Hampshire conservation officials said that search parties found the body of Sotelo, a 5'3

New Hampshire conservation officials said that search parties found the body of Sotelo, a 5’3″ sophomore at Vanderbilt University, at 11:15am. She was an avid hiker and had been close to her goal of conquering New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet before turning 20

Mount Lafayette reaches a 5,260 foot peak and its surrounding trail was rated 'difficult' by 4000Footers.com. It is situated in the state's infamous White Mountains, a range commonly perceived as treacherous during winter

Mount Lafayette reaches a 5,260 foot peak and its surrounding trail was rated ‘difficult’ by 4000Footers.com. It is situated in the state’s infamous White Mountains, a range commonly perceived as treacherous during winter

‘Pemi has three teams out tonight looking for this missing hiker’ the search team said in a post on Facebook at the time.

Officials Wednesday said that Sotelo, an avid hiker, had been close to reaching her goal of conquering New Hampshire’s 48 peaks above 4,000 feet before turning 20.

However, they reiterated the teen had been woefully unprepared for the deep snow and high winds that overtook the region on Sunday.

‘Weather conditions by Sunday evening were single digit temperatures, 40 to 60 mile per hour winds, blowing snow, and she was not dressed accordingly for those temperatures,’ Walsh told WMUR-TV Wednesday.

‘Those are extreme conditions and then she ended up off trail.’

Emily was last seen Sunday morning  after her mother dropped her off at a trailhead near Mount Lafayette, where her body was ultimately found

Emily was last seen Sunday morning  after her mother dropped her off at a trailhead near Mount Lafayette, where her body was ultimately found

Mount Lafayette can become extremely treacherous during the winter as temperatures drop and snow accumulates. A helicopter from the state's National Guard had to be called in to retrieve Sotelo's body

Mount Lafayette can become extremely treacherous during the winter as temperatures drop and snow accumulates. A helicopter from the state’s National Guard had to be called in to retrieve Sotelo’s body

With that said, even without the drastic temperatures and winds, Mount Lafayette’s trail already boasts a pronounced ‘difficult’ rating from 4000Footers.com, and reaches as high as 5,260 feet.

The mountain is also part of a loop that spans several miles and summits Mount Lincoln and Little Haystack Mountain, which Sotelo successfully traversed during her trek.

However, the elements would eventually catch up with her – though it is not yet known what day she ultimately passed.

Sotelo was a sophomore majoring in biochemistry and chemical biology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

In a letter to students Wednesday, Vice Provost G.L. Black mourned Sotelo, noting how she had become an active member of the community since transferring from the College of William & Mary this year.

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 scent dogs, eventually finding a trail and items left by Sotelo at the headwaters of Lafayette Brook on Tuesday afternoon. Fellow hikers had also assisted in the four-day effort

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 scent dogs, eventually finding a trail and items left by Sotelo at the headwaters of Lafayette Brook on Tuesday afternoon. Fellow hikers had also assisted in the four-day effort

He added that the teen had been a leader in an organization working to combat drug abuse on the storied campus.

Her parents, meanwhile, told reporters she was an experienced hiker, but was not as well-versed when it came to winter hiking.

Sotelo’s mother was the last person to see the teen, waving her off at 5am Sunday as she set out on her hike. After not hearing from her by nightfall, the girl’s family reported her missing.

The National Guard was quickly brought in to assist officials, offering the one helicopter that eventually retrieved the girl’s body. Fellow hikers also braved subzero temperatures to assist officials in the search.

Officials said Sotelo’s death should serve as a warning to all hikers of the dangers that come with winter excursions. It is not yet clear if officials will carry out an autopsy.




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