Body of missing hiker found near Wallface Mountain (update)
Forest rangers on Monday located the body of Alex Stevens, the 28-year-old hiker who has been missing since Sept. 2, on a scree field near Wallface Pond, in the vicinity of Wallface Mountain.
The Hopewell, New Jersey, resident had set out for a three-day hike in the High Peaks Wilderness but was inadequately prepared for multiple overnights in rugged terrain in rainy fall weather, according to state forest rangers.
State police said Stevens’ body was discovered around 11 a.m. Monday, about a half-mile from his campsite that was discovered last week on Wallface’s summit area.
He did not have shelter but was carrying supplies for one, according to Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw. He was not carrying a compass or tools to start a fire, and all his food was gone, the coroner added.
“Your brain lives on carbohydrates for the most part, and if you don’t get carbohydrates over a long period of time it’ll really play with your mind, and you are going to make bad decisions, and you are just not going to be able to function after a while,” Whitelaw said.
An autopsy will be performed at 11 a.m. Tuesday to determine a cause of death and how long Stevens had been deceased when he was found. Whitelaw said there was no visible trauma and that nothing appeared to be suspicious.
The discovery follows a nine-day search when forest rangers, K-9 dog units, state police helicopters and volunteers covered 300 miles in 2,500 hours, logging 40 flight hours in the process.
Although Stevens set out on Labor Day weekend, he wasn’t reported missing until a week later, by friends he was supposed to meet in New York City. That day, Sept. 10, rangers found Stevens’s vehicle at the Upper Works trailhead in the town of Newcomb.
The next day, near Wallface’s summit, they found two foam ear plugs, believed to be his, and a strap that matched one on his hammock he bought.
On Thursday, searchers found a personal item of Stevens’s near the summit of Wallface. Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell said rangers decided not to publicly say what the item is but that it belonged to Stevens.
A map visible at a press conference Monday evening in Newcomb showed “clues” found on the search for Stevens. Two of those clues were water bottles, one on the Wallface summit and one on the west face. The others were the campsite, strap and earplug. Authorities did not discuss the clues at the press conference.
People who talked to Stevens on Sept. 2 near Wallface said he was wearing open-toed sandals, shorts, a T-shirt and a light backpack. Rangers said he had his cellphone, a blanket or bed roll, a hammock with a tarp that he could use to stay out of the weather, and some food.
At the, state forest ranger director Eric Lahr emphasized the need for hikers looking to scale the Adirondack mountains to come prepared and to pack enough gear to handle unexpected situations.
“If they’re coming for a day hike, they need to come prepared to spend the night,” Lahr said.
“I’ve seen it go both ways so many times,” Whitelaw said. “When I was an investigator [with the state police], we had people that went missing and we never heard from them or recovered them, and there’s other people that after a long period of time where we did not expect them to survive they were actually found alive. This is just one of those cases that we got the outcome we weren’t hoping for.”
Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio contributed an audio recroding of the press conference as well as photos to this report.