Louise Chaput: Unsolved Murder in the White Mountains

It was late fall of 2001 and Louise Chaput was looking forward to her weekend plans of hiking the White Mountains with friends. But when those plans fell through, Louise, who was eager to return to the majestic White Mountains that she’d hiked before, decided to do the trip on her own.

Louise was an experienced and prepared hiker. She arrived at the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center in New Hampshire on the afternoon of Thursday, November 15, 2001. Before checking into her camp lodgings for the night, she set out on a short hike. Just a little trek to stretch her legs after the car ride. But she never returned to check in for her reservation at the lodge. Three days later, she hadn’t returned home to Quebec, either.

For three days, searchers fought dangerously cold temperatures and deep snow looking for any clues that would lead to her whereabouts. Then, a week after Louise had set off on what was supposed to be a short hike, her body was located just 200 feet from a popular trailhead.

The White Mountains are no stranger to death and disappearance, with some of the harshest conditions in the Northeast and even the world. The first death ever recorded on Mount Washington occurred in 1849, and since then more than 160 people have died on the mountain. Hikers have been killed in accidental falls or from exposure to the mountain’s freezing cold. Sometimes, even search and rescue team members are killed trying to save hikers in distress. Except Louise Chaput did not freeze to death or fall from a cliff or suffer some sort of accident. Louise Chaput was murdered. And her killer has never been found.

If you have information regarding this case, contact the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit at (603) 271-2663, coldcaseunit@dos.nh.gov, or leave a tip.

Louise Chaput Leaves for the White Mountains

She was a good samaritan. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She was brave, independent and adventurous. 52-year old Louise Chaput was a mother to two daughters and she worked as a psychologist, mainly specializing in family and marital counseling, but she had also started working at a local jail with inmates who had become police informants. Because of this work, sometimes she was called upon as an expert witness in the youth court’s criminal cases. Louise even volunteered her counseling services to families who otherwise could not afford them.

She found fulfillment in helping others, yet she found her peace in the forests and in the mountains. Louise’s friend and fellow psychologist, Jocelyn Bourget, told Graeme Hamilton of The National Post, “Louise adored nature and the outdoors.”

After plans for a group hike fell through in November of 2001, Louise decided to go to the White Mountains on her own. She packed her hiking gear into her silver Ford Focus station wagon, said goodbye to her husband, who is also referred to as her long-time boyfriend in some sources, and her two daughters, and made her way south to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Lodge, where she had a reservation. She left home on Thursday, November 15, and planned to be back in three days after a series of day hikes around Mount Washington.

Mount Washington, located in northern New Hampshire in the White Mountains’s Presidential Range, is the highest point in the northeastern United States at 6,288 feet high. However, The Eagle Tribune said that, “when compared to taller peaks in Alaska, California and Colorado, our Mount Washington is a relative pipsqueak.”

The relative low elevation does not have any bearing on its inherent dangers, however. More than 160 people have died on the mountain.

In 2019, New Hampshire Magazine reported that the most common causes of death on Mount Washington were related to falls (often into ravines or off of ledges) or hypothermia due to exposure to the harsh elements. Afterall, Mount Washington is famous, or even infamous, for having what has been called the worst weather in the world. In 1934, a 231-mile per hour wind struck the summit, becoming the fastest non-tornadic wind speed ever recorded by a person on land. And in February of 2023, Mount Washington experienced a wind chill of 109 degrees below zero, the lowest windchill on record in the country.

A quote-unquote pipsqueak, maybe, but Mount Washington is clearly not for the inexperienced or the unprepared. And Louise Chaput was neither of those things. The Boston Globe’s David Arnold spoke to Louise’s sister Colette who said their whole family loved skiing and hiking and she’d grown up around outdoor adventures. She was often in the mountains, Colette explained, and she didn’t mind hiking solo. Louise was familiar with many of the trails, and had summited Mount Washington at least once before. And so she set off for New Hampshire with her sleeping bag, a hiking backpack, water and chocolate – a hiking essential. It was time for another solo adventure in the White Mountains.

Louise crossed into the United States from Canada at an entry point in Norton, Vermont, that Thursday just before noon. About an hour later, she stopped for gas at a convenience store in Colebrook, New Hampshire, before driving the final stretch to reach Pinkham Notch before dark.

As reported by Barbara Tetrault for The Valley News, a woman came into the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center around 3pm and asked a clerk where she could take a short hike to stretch her legs after the long car ride. She wanted to be back before dark, so the clerk directed the woman to the Lost Pond Trail, just across the street from the lodge. Although the woman never gave the clerk her name, she is believed to have been Louise Chaput.

Louise planned to be gone just a few days, back in time for work on Monday morning, November 19. But when the work week rolled around, the dedicated, enthusiastic Louise wasn’t back from her trip yet. Graeme Hamilton reported for Canadian publication The National Post that her office was eager to see her, but Louise never returned. That same day, Louise’s boyfriend called the authorities in New Hampshire to report her missing.

The Search

The search and rescue effort for Louise Chaput began swiftly, and the day after she was reported missing, her silver Ford Focus station wagon was found in the parking lot of the Direttissima trailhead, just down the road from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and across from the Lost Pond Trail.

According to reporting by the Portland Press Herald, that first day on the mountain dozens of searchers from New Hampshire Fish and Game, Mountain Rescue Services, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, and the U.S. Forest Service were confronted with high winds, which caused blowing snow and wind chills as low as negative 16 degrees. That first day was fruitless. No sign Louise.

The second day, Wednesday, proved to be calmer. A helicopter from the U.S. Army National Guard was deployed to search the remote and heavily wooded area from above for any sign of Louise. Still, authorities found nothing.

On day three, the search for Louise ended. On the afternoon of Thursday, November 22, Thanksgiving Day in the United States, members of New Hampshire Fish and Game discovered Louise Chaput’s body. According to a piece by the Portland Press Herald, she was located not far from where her car was found parked at the trailhead.

Stephanie Hanes reported for The Concord Monitor that Louise was found wearing black fleece pants, a red nylon jacket, and white Reeboks, all of which indicated that she was not planning on going for a long hike on the afternoon she arrived at Pinkham Notch Lodge. The first reports of Louise Chaput’s death were scarce for details. Reporters were directed to the office of the Attorney General, who gave no comments at the time. The Medical Examiner wasn’t available for comment either, not at first.

Two days later though, Louise Chaput’s cause of death was publicly reported. She hadn’t fallen or succumbed to the elements. Someone killed Louise Chaput. Her death was ruled a homicide.

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