12-10-2000: The victim was solo ice climbing in Huntington Ravine’s Pinnacle Gully when he fell approximately 400 feet. He injured his back, neck, legs and suffered minor contusions and lacerations. The victim self evacuated himself to the Harvard Mountaineering Cabin where he was then put in a litter and transported to the Sherburne Ski trail he was then transferred to the USFS Snowcat to Pinkham Notch. The rescue took 6 people about 3 ½ hours to perform.
2-18-2001: On 2-18-01, two climbers, NG and JB were ‘simul-soloing’ Damnation Gully, a 1200 foot ice and snow climb. They were at the last ice bulge, approximately 200 feet from the top, when the accident occurred around 12:30 pm. The plan was to have JB climb through the section of ice while NG sank his ice axes into the ice bulge to provide himself an anchor while waiting for JB to clear this section. NG was then to follow. NG was approximately 5-7 feet below JB when JB planted his left-handed ice axe into the ice, and unleashed an “ice dam”. A large section of the ice-bulge broke apart, accompanied by a rush of ice-cold water. NG was attached with his ice axes to this 6 by 10′ section of ice, which broke out. NG fell with the section of ice approximately 800 feet. When the ice blew out, JB’s left tool and left leg (crampon) were forcefully ejected from the ice. As a result JB “barn-doored” on to his right hand axe and crampon. He saw NG fall all the way down the gully. JB continued up the gully as trying to descend would have been more time-consuming and dangerous under the circumstances. He topped out on the climb and descended Central Gully to come to the aid of NG.
Other climbers nearby came to the aid of NG while a snowboarder rode ½ mile down to the Harvard Mountaineering Club cabin to call for help. Forest Service Snowrangers responded. NG had suffered multiple trauma. Climbers on scene had him in a rescue litter obtained from the Dow First Aid Cache when the first Snow Ranger arrived. Several climbers pre-placed anchor systems to help lower the litter down the steep terrain. It took 3 belays to get him to the floor of the ravine. NG had an open head injury, was unconscious and having difficulty breathing. The Forest Service snowcat arrived and he was quickly loaded onto it and taken down the mountain. He was loaded into a waiting ambulance at 3:30 pm and transported to Memorial Hospital in North Conway, where he died from his injuries.
Damnation Gully is considered a grade 3 climb. There is one small section of grade 3 ice, several sections of grade 2, and many pitches of steep-snow climbing. It is not unusual or uncommon for climbers to ascend the route without the support of a rope and belay.
One way an ice dam can form is under conditions of a rapid temperature drop. The low temperature on the summit of Mount Washington in the previous 24 hours was –19 degrees F. Waterfall ice is formed when water flows over steep terrain in winter. The water that forms the ice is always flowing and constantly forming new ice. When the air temperature drops, water channels freeze up and water begins to pool up behind the ice. This creates hydraulic pressure behind the ice. When the ice dam is disturbed, the pooled water breaks out, often with an explosive force.
Mountaineering is a risk filled pursuit with many objective hazards. Risk management and mitigating hazards must be a constant endeavor. Even then, accidents in the mountains still happen due to unforeseen forces.
These climbers were knowledgeable and experienced. Ice dams are an unpredictable hazard of winter mountaineering.
Due to the tremendous forces involved, it is unclear whether belayed climbing would have saved the life of NG.
Personnel Used: USFS – 2 AMC – 2 MRS – 2 Volunteers-unaffiliated – 12
The rescue effort took approximately 4 hours total.
3-01-2001: The victim was descending the Winter Lion Head Trail when he stumbled and fell off the trail. He suffered a possible broken right leg. Victim’s leg was splinted by the Harvard Mountain Club Caretaker. He was placed in a litter and transported to Pinkham where he was then picked up by an ambulance and transported to the hospital. The rescue took 6 people approximately 3 hours to perform.
3-17-2001: On 3-17-01 MR was snowboarding over the Lip when he fell and cartwheeled approximately 700 feet down the slope at a high rate of speed. Bystanders in the ravine came to the aid of MR while one person went to Hermit Lake to report the accident to the Forest Service and AMC caretaker. A cell phone call reporting the accident was received at 5pm, at the same time the person from the ravine reported it to the Snow Rangers. MR sustained a fractured femur of the left leg. He was put in a sager traction splint and placed in a rescue litter. Heat packs and a “hypo wrap” were applied to prevent hypothermia.
Due to the time of day and the possible severity of his injury DART medical helicopter was called. MR was littered to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine where he was loaded into the helicopter at 6:15pm.
Skiing or riding steep snowfields and gullys is an inherently dangerous sport. To help minimize your chance of being injured consider: wearing a helmet; using releasable bindings whenever possible; staying well hydrated; and skiing or riding when snow conditions are favorable. A common problem we see in the ravine is the skier/rider who tries to squeeze too many runs into a cold but sunny day. During the early part of the day the snow in the ravine softens due to solar radiation. By mid afternoon, the sun drops behind the ridge and the ravine is in the shade. The snow surface freezes very rapidly when this occurs. Now the skier/rider is at the top of the gully facing having to come down a hard, frozen surface. Having crampons and an ice axe is your best bet to get down the gully safely in these conditions, foregoing that last run down the slope. If you do not have this equipment, pay attention to the sun and the snow conditions and descend before the snowpack freezes up.
Personnel Used: USFS- 2 AMC – 7 MWVSP –1 Volunteer – 3
The rescue effort took approximately 2 hours total.
4-1-2001: The victim snowboarded off the top of a Hermit Lake lean-to landing on his back and head. The victim was disoriented and showed signs of a possible head injury. He was attended to by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was transported to Pinkham via the USFS Snowcat and transported to the hospital by friends. The rescue took 3 people about 2 hours to complete.
4-07-2001: Victim was skiing the Chute when he fell approximately 300 feet. He stated it “felt like my knee might have popped”. His knee was splinted by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was placed in a litter and sledded to the Little Headwall. He was then belayed over the Little Headwall and transferred to the USFS Snowcat, which took him down to Pinkham. The rescue took about 2 ½ hours and 4 people.
4-13-2001: On 4-13-01 BL and his two companions AF and AB were descending via the Lion Head trail. It was near 11:00 pm when, in the darkness and limited visibility due to blowing snow, BL fell off the trail into Tuckerman Ravine. His companions descended to find him. He was located after a ten-minute search due to the fact that his head lamp stayed on. BL was initially unresponsive when his companions found him. AF continued to Hermit Lake to seek assistance from the Hermit Lake Caretaker. At 11:30pm AB and BL arrived at Hermit Lake. BL was complaining about pressure around his eyes, had a 1-2” laceration on his head, and a very swollen face. Due to the unknown distance of his fall precautions where taken to immobilize his spine. He was put on a backboard, given oxygen, loaded into the Forest Service snowcat and transported to Pinkham. He was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in Conway, NH.
Route finding at night can be very difficult in the best of circumstances let alone in darkness with white-out conditions. Plan your day to ensure enough daylight for your hike. Have a turn around time in mind of when you will abandon you hike up in order to make it down safely. If you end up in dark and windy conditions, resist the temptation to put your back to the wind. Bring a map and compass and go the direction you are supposed to go, not the way that is most comfortable.
Personnel Used USFS – 1 AMC – 2
The rescue effort took approximately 1 3/4 hours total.
4-14-2001: The victim was hiking up Hillmans Highway to snowboard. He fell approximately 200-300 feet on the icy surface suffering multiple abrasions. He was lowered by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol about 400 feet with a boot/ice axe belay and then walked to the USFS cabin where his wounds were treated. Victim was able to walk down to Pinkham on his own.
4-20-2001: The victim was descending Gully #3 (near Hillmans Highway) when he fell. He hit a tree in the “split position” and his lower left leg hit the tree. Victim suffered a knee injury to his left knee. His knee was immobilized, he was placed in a litter and taken to Hermit Lake. From there he was placed in a sled and taken down to Pinkham behind the USFS snowmobile. The rescue took 3 people and about 3 hours.
4-22-2001: The victim was skiing down the Sherburne Ski trail when a dog from their group got in front of him causing him to fall. He suffered a possible lower leg fracture. His leg was splinted, he was placed in a litter and transported to Pinkham via the USFS Snowcat. The rescue took approximately 1 hour and 4 people.
4-28-2001: The victim fell coming down the Chute and slid and tumbled into the bowl. The victim suffered minor abrasions to the face and chin. He was attended to by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. The victim left the Ravine on his own. The incident took about ½ hour and 1 person.
4-28-2001: On 4-28-01, JL and JN were descending Mt Washington after climbing up the Lion Head Trail. Above the ravine they started to glissade down the slope. JL lost his ice axe and started an uncontrolled fall on the hard pack snow and fell 20′ into a crevasse. JN tried to descend to assist JL and also fell uncontrolled into the crevasse, approximately 30′. Two skiers (FM & RF) in the ravine witnessed JN fall, FM tried to ski down the Lip to assist when he fell 500′ down the Lip. At approximately 7:00 pm FM reached the Snow Ranger Cabin at Hermit Lake and reported that a female had fallen down the headwall into a bunch of rocks. At the same time a 911 call was relayed to the Snow Rangers from the Maine State Police, who received a call from JN in the crevasse. Members of the MWVSP and AMC employees headed into the ravine to assist the injured female. Upon arrival at 7:15pm they saw the other skier, RF descending the “Lobster Claw”, he confirmed that an accident occurred on the Lip. A search was conducted, at 7:45pm the team found JL & JN in the crevasse. A rescuer was lowered into the crevasse, a harness was put on JL and he was extricated from the crevasse at 9:30 pm. He was then lowered by rope down the headwall put in a litter, belayed by a second team down the Little Headwall and transported to the Snow Rangers cabin, where he was treated for hypothermia and his injuries. Meanwhile, the rescuer in the crevasse splinted JN’s leg and helped her into a harness. JN was extricated from the crevasse at 11:19 pm, placed in a litter and lowered to the floor of the ravine. She was then belayed down the Little Headwall and transported to the Snow Rangers cabin. JN reached the cabin at 2:45am where she was treated for hypothermia and her injuries. JL and JN where then transported by the USFS snowcat to Pinkham Notch where they were placed in an ambulance at 5:00am.
JL suffered a ruptured spleen, ruptured liver and a bruised kidney. JN suffered two broken ankles and a fractured pelvis.
JL and JN where descending a route they were not familiar with. Always be aware of the hazards you may encounter. In Tuckerman Ravine in the spring you can expect to find crevasses, undermined snow and falling ice. Therefore, in this area it is best to climb up what you plan to come down so you will be familiar with the hazards you will encounter.
The snow conditions at the time of the accident were very hard and extremely unfavorable for self arrest. Glissading is not recommended when conditions are hard, you have hazards below you, you don’t know what is below you, or you don’t have a clear run out in case you lose control.
JL and JN were well prepared for a winter hike. Having the proper clothing and extra gear may have saved them from succumbing to hypothermia while waiting for extrication from the crevasse.
Personnel Used: USFS-2 AMC-3 MWVSP-7 Volunteers-3
The rescue effort took approximately 10 hours total.
5-6-2001: The victim was descending Right Gully when he slipped and fell. He grabbed hold of a tree to stop his fall and suffered a dislocated right shoulder. He was attended to by Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. The dislocation was reduced and his arm was placed in a sling and swath. He walked out of the ravine on his own. The rescue took 2 people about 2 hours to perform.
5-12-2001: The victim was skiing the ravine when he twisted his knee. He walked to Hermit Lake where he then sought assistance from the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. His knee was bandaged and taped and he was able to walk the rest of the way to Pinkham. The incident took ½ hour and 1 person.
5-13-2001: On 5-13-01 VM was descending the Tuckerman Ravine trail, above Tuckerman Ravine, on snowshoes. She lost her footing just above the Lip and tumbled into the Ravine, falling into a crevasse. VM was upright in the crevasse about 30′ below the surface. She was able to reach down and remove her snowshoes. Snow Rangers and members of the MWVSP lowered a harness into the crevasse. VM was able to get into the harness on her own and she was then extricated from the crevasse. VM was lowered to the floor of the ravine where she was treated for hypothermia and an injured ankle. VM was able to walk with assistance from the ravine to the Snow Rangers cabin at Hermit Lake. At the cabin she was warmed up and her ankle taped. She was then put in a litter and taken down the Sherburne Ski trail to Pinkham Notch.
VM was descending an area she was unfamiliar with on snowshoes. Snowshoeing in steep terrain can be difficult and dangerous. Snowshoes don’t allow you to “edge” in hard steep terrain. They actually act as boats making a fall in steep terrain fast and uncontrollable. Always be aware of the hazards you may encounter. In Tuckerman Ravine in the spring you can expect to find crevasses, undermined snow and falling ice. Therefore, in this area it is best to climb up what you plan to come down so you will be familiar with the hazards you will encounter.
VM had the necessary equipment for a day hike except her clothing was mostly cotton. When cotton gets wet it stays wet, it is best to have synthetic clothing such as polypropylene and fleece to help reduce the chance of hypothermia.
Personnel Used: USFS-3 MWVSP-6 Volunteers-3
The rescue effort took approximately 5 hours total.