November 16, 2011ALTON — This past year, visits to hike Mount Major in Alton have risen, with that so have the numbers of calls that the Alton Fire Department has gotten from the popular hiking spot.
There have been a total of 13 calls this calendar year, with six involving lost hikers on Mount Major.
Alton Fire Chief Scott Williams is working with New Hampshire Fish and Game official Ron Arsenault to develop a detailed map of the trail system that would be located at the base of Mount Major.
Williams would also like to see the State of New Hampshire look into expanding the parking lot, which is not nearly big enough to handle cars during the busy summer and fall months.
On busy days, cars fill both sides of the Route 11 breakdown lanes in both directions.
There were two calls from hikers in the last month where they were stranded at the top after the sun had set.
The fire department had to drive up a portion of the mountain using the utility vehicle, which was paid for using fundraising by the Firemen's Association, hike up the mountain and track down the hikers using GPS and then guide them down the mountain.
Williams said that these kinds of rescues used to take hours or days without the use of the GPS, and the department can keep track of each volunteer on the mountain by using Garmin GPS systems.
Williams believes that calls have been higher this year than ever before.
"It's becoming a burden to the taxpayers in Alton," Williams said.
He explained that if someone is rescued from the mountain and that they are transported, they are charged a fee.
Williams is hoping to add more markings or "blazes" on the trails so that the trails are more easily found.
The chief also recommended that hikers should familiarize themselves with landmarks so that if they do get lost, they can point out to the authorities where on the mountain that they are.
He is also hoping to use Department of Transportation tape that is easily visible using flashlights and is looking into purchasing some stronger headlamps for firefighters.
Williams has seen year round use of the mountain expand in the past couple years, as people snowshoe it and climb it during the winter months.
After the snow falls and rocks and the trails of covered, it becomes even more dangerous to hike.
"In January, that mountain is a glazed donut," Williams added.
He suggested that groups of people who are going to hike Mount Major use caution, always go in groups and leaving the elderly, or people who may not be physically fit to hike the mountain, at home.
It is also important to know when the sunset is, and with the recent day light savings time change, the sun is down by about 4:30 p.m. during an average day.
Tim Croes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126