Outing Club honors Emily Sotelo with hike on Mt. Moosilauke


Provided by Lynn Jones

The Outing Club pictured at the top of Mt. Moosilauke. From left to right: Cheri Fisher, Callie Bateson, senior Lindsay Eby, senior Ian Anderson, sophomore Anna Guzik, Sara Blomgren, sophomore Ethan Mandile, junior Megan Keefer and junior Aiden Carrasco

Elitsa Koleva, News Editor

The Outing Club made its monthly hike in New Hampshire on Mt. Moosilauke last Saturday in honor of Emily Sotelo, a WA Alumnus who passed away recently while she was hiking in the White Mountains. The group of six student-hikers set about the 4,000 foot snow-covered mountain under good weather conditions using microspikes on their shoes, with advisor Lynn Jones and four additional chaperones present to keep them safe. 

The Outing Club originally chose Mt. Moosilauke for its incredible winter view and the relatively easy trail. However, when the news came of Sotelo’s passing, the club had a discussion and took the hike as an opportunity to honor her memory. Along the way, they discovered how other hikers were just as affected by the news and connected with them, as they too were hiking for Sotelo.

“We were definitely thinking about Emily at times, and we did come across quite a few other hikers and all of them offered their support,” senior Ian Anderson said. “A lot of people said that hearing about Emily is what motivated them to go on a hike. We even encountered someone who was on the search party looking for her.”

Although the Outing Club did not know Sotelo personally, as she was not a member of the Outing Club, they believed it was important to honor her in every way they could. In addition to the hike, they also raised money during the Holiday Bazaar and plan to donate these funds to search and rescue organizations. These organizations are listed in Sotelo’s obituary.

According to Jones, in order to ensure the safety of the group, the Outing Club chose this hike based on the experience of the hikers in the winter time. When it came to hiking Mt. Moosilauke, it was more difficult compared to summer and spring hikes because of the snow, low temperatures, and winds at the top of the mountain.

Still, the hike went smoothly as the temperatures were not as cold as expected and the skies were clear. The Outing Club began the trail at around 9 a.m. and hiked through the woods for a while before reaching a steeper, icier section. After getting through the hardest part, they reached above treeline view and were able to see Mt. Washington as well as Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette, among others. They describe the scenery as beautiful and the connections they formed with one another as indescribable.

“We don’t go hiking up in the Whites [White Mountains] often, probably not more than three or four times a year, and so this was one of those times. And that alone makes it very exciting,” Anderson said. “Spirits were high the whole time. There was lots of story-sharing and awful singing. The views and feeling of being on a mountain are not something you can really explain or capture in a picture.”

Before they began the hike, the Outing Club made sure to check the weather conditions multiple times and prepare with warm clothing, traction for the ice, and headlamps to light the way for when it got dark. They had frequent safety checks along the way, with Jones counting the number of people to make sure they were all there. A buddy system was also in place, where anyone who wanted to get ahead would have to do so with a buddy.

“We hiked as a group, making sure that we’re making smart choices. As hikers, we’re aware of our abilities,” Jones said. “So I spoke to parents and talked about the different procedures that we do and the expectations [we have]. And safety of the students is paramount. That’s the important part, to make sure everybody that starts off comes back.”

Even though the level of experience between hikers varied when it came to the number of 4,000 footers they had done in the past and their involvement with the club, they were all brought together with the common goal of reaching the top. For the hikers that struggled and found themselves falling slightly behind, the people ahead provided them with support.

“Since there’s more experienced hikers than me in the group I kind of just stayed with them and they helped support me through it because they’re amazing people,” junior Megan Keefer said. “I kind of set them as goals so they’ll go ahead of me and I’ll just be like, ‘okay, I’m going to make it to you and we’re going to take a water break’.”

Just like Sotelo, many of the students on this trip have a goal of eventually climbing all of the 48 4,000 footers in New Hampshire, which is a common goal for a lot of hikers. But what really drives them to hike in the first place is the amazing feeling and sense of accomplishment whenever they reach the top. This hike was no different.

“On this hike we walked next to this amazing stream and that was one of my favorite parts, and then the [view] was outrageous and amazing at the top,” Keefer said. “[Hiking] is definitely a wide range of emotions because at the beginning you feel amazing and then once you get to the hard stuff that’s when you’re scared, but it’s all worth it in the end.”