Search continues for lost N.H. hiker

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FRANCONIA, N.H. (AP) – Dozens of rescuers on Sunday were searching for a Merrimack man who lost his way while hiking in treacherous winter conditions.

Brian Gagnon, 24, of Merrimack, and two friends were hiking Mt. Lafayette on Saturday morning when they decided to return home due to severe cold and wind, said Fish and Game Lt. Doug Gralenski. As they made their way down the mountain, the group decided to split up, with Gagnon hiking ahead.

The two others returned to the trailhead on Saturday afternoon but Gagnon has not been seen since.

Gagnon, a graduate student at Plymouth State University, called his friends from his cell phone around 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, authorities said. He told the others he was below treeline, in a drainage where several brooks join together but wasn’t certain which side of the mountain.

Eight teams of searchers were concentrating on three valleys. A New Hampshire National Guard helicopter also was available but high winds limited its ability to search.

Authorities said the weather continued to be extremely cold, windy and dangerous with below-zero temperatures. Gagnon and his friends were carrying cold weather hiking and camping gear.

AP-ES-01-21-07 1519EST

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