What to do in the event of an emergency

Nothing we can write here will truly prepare you for responding to an emergency in the mountains. They are all different. If there is one thing that holds true for all Search and Rescue missions, it’s that it takes a long time to get a person off the mountain. There are plenty of courses you can take, books to read, and people to talk to about the subject. Risking oversimplification, here’s what you should do if you or a member of your group has an accident:

  1. Ensure the scene is safe. If it’s not, either find a way to make it safe or move to a different area before you respond. Do not put yourself at unnecessary risk; one accident victim is difficult enough to manage.
  2. Provide first aid.
  3. Begin evacuation or get assistance if needed.

How to get help

After you’ve ensured the victim is in a safe location and you’ve provided 1st aid, consider your options. In the event of an avalanche burial, self-rescue gives the victim the best chance at survival. If you need assistance there are a number of places to get it:

  • By Cell Phone: Dial 911. Your service will likely be limited depending on your location, and your battery may not last long in the cold. Like most other electronics, cell phones are good tools but not 100% reliable in the mountains.
  • In Person: There are people who work and live at Hermit Lake Shelters (year round), and the Harvard Cabin (between Dec. 1 and March 31). Also, there is a USFS Snow Ranger cabin at Hermit Lake. If no one is available at these locations, your next option is Pinkham Notch. After hours, there is a pay phone in the pack up room (the entrance is the tunnel from the parking lot).
  • 1st Aid Caches: We maintain a series of 1st aid caches spread out across the Cutler River Drainage. Each one has, at minimum, a rescue litter and a first aid kit. Please open caches only in an emergency! These caches can be found at:
    • Lunch Rocks in Tuckerman Ravine
    • Connection (the entrance to the Tuckerman Ravine floor)
    • Upper Fire Rd at entrance to Huntington Ravine
    • Junction of Lions Head Trail Winter Route and Huntington Fire Road
    • Sherburne Ski Trail (2)
    • Gulf of Slides Ski Trail (2)
    • Base of Hillman’s Highway