A 75-year-old Massachusetts man died Wednesday after he got lost hiking near the top of Mount Katahdin and fell while spending the night on the mountain awaiting rescuers.

Donald MacGillis, a longtime Boston Globe editor from Pittsfield, Mass., was in critical condition when airlifted from Mount Katahdin Wednesday. He later died from his injuries, according to his son.

MacGillis and his 25-year-old nephew, Paul MacGillis, started up the Dudley Trail from Chimney Pond at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and then started across the Knife Edge trail, but lost the path around South Peak in the fog, rain and darkness, according to a release from Baxter State Park.

The pair would have crossed most of the Knife Edge, a narrow, serrated ridge-top trail, to reach the 5,240-foot South Peak on the way to Baxter Peak. The trail is difficult under ideal conditions and becomes especially dangerous in poor weather and limited visibility.

At 12:30 a.m., Paul MacGillis spoke to Baxter State Park Chief Ranger Dan Rinard after contacting 911. Rinard determined that the pair were off trail and lost but not injured at that point. Given the dark and rainy conditions, the hikers were advised to shelter in place until first light when a rescue operation could safely begin.

At around 3:10 a.m., the younger hiker called Rinard to report his uncle had been injured in a tumbling fall of more than 50 feet. Rinard advised the men on how to stay warm and monitor the condition of the older hiker, but both became hypothermic during the night.


As daylight approached, Rinard and other rangers contacted the Maine Army National Guard for assistance. The guard deployed a Blackhawk helicopter from Bangor to assist in the rescue, but the mountain was obscured by fog.

Meanwhile, Chimney Pond Ranger Andy Borth reached the pair around 9:30 a.m. and found the older hiker in critical condition. Borth treated the MacGillis for hypothermia and other injuries as other rangers arrived at the scene.

During a break in the fog, the helicopter crew lowered a medic who helped rangers load the older hiker into a litter at about 10:30 a.m. He was flown to the Millinocket Municipal Airport, where he was transferred to a Lifeflight helicopter and transported to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. He was in critical condition when transported, according to rangers.

The Blackhawk returned to the mountain and at 11:25 a.m. hoisted and transported Paul MacGillis to Bangor International Airport. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of hypothermia and exhaustion.

Rangers say this was the sixth airlift off Katahdin this season. It was the second rescue in the park in four days.

MacGillis was a passionate hiker, according to report by the Berkshire Eagle, where he had served as executive editor.


MacGillis left the Berkshire Eagle after that newspaper was purchased in 1995 and went to work at the Globe. He was an editorial writer and later served as national politics editor, according to the Eagle.

He is survived by his wife, Ingrid, son Alec MacGillis and daughter Lucy MacGillis.

Alec MacGillis, a journalist with ProPublica, posted the news Thursday on Twitter.

“All, I am very sorry to report the death of my father, newspaper journalist Donald MacGillis, after a hiking accident on Mt Katahdin in Maine. He was the consummate local/metro newsman in his career as an editor at the Berkshire Eagle & Boston Globe, and he was my ultimate model.” 

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