BRETTON WOODS, N.H. – A younger woman chatters to her mom as they descend Mount Pierce, her voice as brilliant and bouncing as her footsteps.

“You’re amazing!” she calls out to a slower couple she passes on the path.

Till then, the couple has been centered on the bodily effort of mountaineering, the precision required to step simply so onto the rocks and across the roots. Movement, sure. Emotion, no.

However only for a second, watching the woman disappear from view reminds them of their daughter.

How may it not?


Nobody would blame Jorge Sotelo and Olivera Bogunovic in the event that they stayed as distant as potential from New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Lower than a 12 months has handed since their oldest daughter Emily died chilly and alone on Mount Lafayette in her quest to hike all 48 of the state’s mountains taller than 4,000 ft (1,220 meters).

Although she had solely a handful of peaks left, Emily had nearly no expertise with winter mountaineering, and officers say she was woefully unprepared for the brutal circumstances that killed her. After an intensive three-day search, her physique was discovered Nov. 23 on what would have been her twentieth birthday.

Inside weeks, her household determined to create the Emily M. Sotelo Security and Persistence Charitable Basis. On July 29, tons of of hikers plan to take part in “Emily’s Hike to Save a Life,” a fundraiser organized by the inspiration and Climbing Buddies, a nonprofit that educates, prepares, and connects hikers. Dozens of groups will hike within the White Mountains and elsewhere, with some aiming to summit the remaining 4,000-footers on Emily’s checklist.

Her mother and father will likely be on Mount Lafayette, retracing her final steps.

In life, Emily pushed her mom out of her consolation zone and impressed her to turn out to be extra giving, Bogunovic stated. The hike is a continuation of that.

“It’s going to be a very emotional experience, but also a sense of accomplishment, that we accomplished what she wanted to accomplish, and in some ways, she does live on,” she stated. “To build on what she had plans for … I think makes it a little bit easier to handle the tragedy.”


Till they began getting ready for the fundraiser, Bogunovic imagined mountaineering was “just a walk in the woods.” She had no thought how strenuous it will be.

“I thought, ‘Oh, it’s nothing, I’ll just run up that mountain and down,’” she stated. “It was really an awakening for me.”

The couple began with flat terrain near their house in Westford, Massachusetts, earlier than working their approach up, actually, to tougher hikes. After tackling Mounts Monadnock, Pemigewasset and Kearsarge, they tried their first 4,000-footer, Mount Pierce, in late June. They didn’t attain the summit that day however succeeded on their second strive a number of weeks later. Whereas skilled hikers sometimes end the 6-mile (10-kilometer) trek in about 4 hours, Sotelo, 57, and Bugonovic, 56, spent near 10 sizzling, humid hours on the mountain that day.

“At the beginning, I was thinking that you can take the mountain with the proper determination but then after attempting hiking a couple of times, I realized that determination is not going to make it,” stated Sotelo, a gastroenterologist who practiced by climbing stairs at work. “You have to train for that.”

Accompanying them was Andrew Barlow, the moderator of the Climbing Buddies NH 48 Fb web page. Unfailingly affected person, he talked the couple by means of trickier sections of the path, answered Bogunovic’s frequent questions on how a lot elevation they’d gained and advised jokes alongside the best way. “You haven’t stopped complaining since you got here” was one punchline, however the novice hikers had no complaints.

“They’ve never shown signs of exhaustion or anything like that. I’m sure they feel it, but they’re good at hiding it,” Barlow stated. “It’s been a long process, but they’ve been great troopers.”


The fundraiser was introduced in April with a purpose of amassing $50,000, however by early July, greater than $75,000 had been raised. Hikers have dedicated to elevating at the least $250 every, and non-hikers who donate at the least $150 can attend a post-hike celebration on the Bretton Woods ski space. Climbing Buddies plans to make use of among the cash raised to supply free “buddy certification” coaching and security programs for brand spanking new hikers ages 17 to 25. Emily had joined the Climbing Buddies Fb group a number of months earlier than she died, however had not participated in any of the group’s organized hikes, Barlow stated.

“It just touched us that much more deeply, the fact that one of our own had died,” he stated.

Amongst these collaborating within the fundraiser is Donna Lannan, 66, of Harmony, who plans to hike Mount Eisenhower. A retired bodily therapist who has been mountaineering in New Hampshire for 40 years, she stated she signed up for the fundraiser to honor Emily and to assist the volunteer search and rescue crews who danger their lives to avoid wasting others. She was mountaineering within the White Mountains the day after Emily disappeared.

“It was very moving and upsetting to know that someone that young, by themselves, had experienced that kind of ending,” she stated. “It was very emotional for me, just feeling badly for this young woman and her family.”

Emily’s mother and father will head up Mount Lafayette on July 28 and spend the evening at an Appalachian Mountain Membership hut. The subsequent day, they’re going to proceed to the summit, the place they are going to meet up with their youthful daughter, Michelle, who plans to hike the 2 different peaks Emily had on her itinerary the day she died.

The months with out Emily have been troublesome, her mother and father stated, and so they’ve turn out to be hyper conscious of different mountaineering accidents.

“Every time something happens, we think of her,” Jorge Sotelo stated.

However he additionally thinks about Emily when he sees households and kids having enjoyable, just like the cheerful younger woman who handed them on Pierce. Bogunovic, in the meantime, stated the encounter made her take into consideration an older lady who reached out to her after Emily’s demise to say Emily as soon as inspired her to maintain going throughout a troublesome hike.

“She did have that spirit,” she stated. “It did remind me.”

Copyright 2023 The Related Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed with out permission.