- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

FRANCONIA, N.H. (AP) - An unprepared couple hiking the Appalachian Trail was overcome by 60 mph winds, rain and fog and likely would have died on Mount Lafayette without the help of a hiker whose tent kept them sheltered until rescue crews arrived, authorities said.

The married couple, 69-year-old Gregory Reck and 57-year-old Lelia Vann, of Norfolk, Virginia, later told officials they were travelling light, hadn’t checked the weather forecast thoroughly and wouldn’t have set off up Mount Lafayette toward the Galehead Hut on Thursday morning if they had.

They set their locator beacon off at about 1 p.m., tipping a Rescue Coordination Center in Texas to their location, which was relayed to New Hampshire Fish and Game officials. Conservation officers launched rescue teams and tried unsuccessfully to reach them on the cellphone linked to their locator account. Rescuers had no idea of the nature of their emergency.

Conservation officers said that when hiker Adam Dewolfe, of Seattle, came upon Reck and Vann at about 3 p.m., they were huddled, shivering and unable to move. He got them out of the wind and into a tent he had with him.

Lt. James Kneeland said sporadic checks with the group revealed they were hypothermic and unable to warm due to their wet clothing.

Rescuers finally reached the trio at about 5:30 p.m. with dry clothing and warm fluids, and they were able to begin heading down the mountain about an hour later, reaching the trailhead close to 9 p.m.

Kneeland said the couple had started up the mountain at about 6 a.m. and they were slack packing, travelling light in an effort to make it to the hut quickly.

“They, along with rescuers, agree that if Mr. Dewolfe had not happened along this incident would likely not have had the same outcome,” Kneeland said.

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