2001-2002 Summaries

 

2-24-2002: The victim was descending on the Lion Head Winter Route when he caught a crampon on a tree and twisted his ankle. His companions helped him to the Hermit Lake Shelters where he was then transported to Pinkham in the USFS Snowcat. The rescue took 3 people about 2 hours to perform.

3-05-2002: The victim and a friend had just started up Left Gully to snowboard when they decided to turn around due to the hard frozen snow surface making climbing difficult. As they were descending, both fell, with the victim hitting a large rock with his leg. His friend notified the AMC caretaker. The USFS snow ranger, AMC & HMC personnel and volunteers responded. They put him in a traction splint, loaded him into a litter and belayed him down the Little Headwall to Hermit Lake. From there he was loaded into the USFS snowcat and transported to Pinkham and a waiting ambulance. He suffered a broken femur of the left leg. This rescue took 8 people approximately 3.25 hours to complete.

3-7-2002: The victim was being sledded, in a litter, down the Tuckerman Ravine trail by two people when they were met by the Hermit Lake Caretaker. He and his friends apparently had been climbing in the ravine when an avalanche swept them down. The avalanche danger rating for this day was Considerable. The victim suffered a dislocated shoulder and an ankle injury and was being evacuated by volunteers. The USFS was called and met the group on the trail and brought them down in the USFS snowcat. A second member of the party was met by the AMC Caretaker on her return back up to Hermit Lake. He had suffered an ankle injury in the same avalanche and was walking down to Pinkham. The Caretaker assisted him down the remainder of the trail to Pinkham. The rescue took approximately 2 hours and 4 people.

3-26-2002: A climber fell at the top of the 2nd bulge in Damnation Gully, Huntington Ravine. Upon placing both tools in hard snow and weighting them, both axes pulled out. The climber fell about 30 feet, half way through the fall the climber hit a ledge landing directly on his foot and rolling his ankle, suffering a sprain. He and his partner self-rescued to the Harvard Cabin where they spent the night. The next morning they were transported to Pinkham in the USFS snowcat.

3-30-2002: The victim was descending the Winter Lion Head trail when he slipped and fell approximately 20-25 feet. He banged his shoulder into a protruding tree branch. A 911 call was received at the Snow Rangers Quarters at the same time a witness stopped at the AMC caretaker cabin to report the accident. USFS Snow Rangers, AMC personnel and members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol responded. They belayed him down the remainder of the steep section of the Lion Head trail to the waiting USFS snowcat. From there he was transported to Pinkham. The rescue took 4 people 4 hours.

4-6-2002: The victim was descending the Lion Head trail (near the top of Right Gully) when she twisted her ankle. She was assisted down the Lion Head Winter trail by her companions and was met by a USFS Snow Ranger and a member of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol at the junction of the Lion Head trail and the Huntington Winter Access trail. She was assisted into the USFS Snowcat and transported to Pinkham. The rescue took 2 people 1 hour.

5-1-2002: At around 1pm, three skiers were approximately 20′, 40′ and 90′ respectively away from the ridgeline on the climbers right of Hillmans Highway when a slab avalanche began just below the ridgeline. The avalanche swept the lower two skiers down Hillmans Highway approximately 800′. Witnesses reported VH was buried near the surface of the debris with the exception of his face. SK was buried face down with just his pack showing. Bystanders immediately dug both victims out by hand. SK suffered a head laceration and complained of sore ribs. He immediately self evacuated himself down the Sherburne ski trail where he was met by a USFS Snow Ranger. His head laceration was attended to by AMC and ambulance personnel. SK left Pinkham on his own power. VH was relatively uninjured and walked out of the area on his own power.

At approximately 2:30pm another avalanche occurred in Tuckerman Ravine, climbers left of the Center Headwall. This slide was skier triggered. The slab avalanche occurred below the rocks that form the steeps of the Headwall and ran approximately 600′. This area is a strong lee pocket and is very protected from the wind. Avalanche activity is common here every season. The skier rode the avalanche to the transition of the flats on the floor of the ravine. He was reported to be buried up to his waist and was able to dig himself out by the time his friend reached him. The two walked out of the ravine and reported the incident to the AMC caretaker.

Comments

The avalanche danger for this day was posted at Moderate, which means natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. There were 11 people in Hillmans Highway and two in the ravine when the human triggered avalanches occurred. None of the folks had avalanche equipment with them, ie: transceivers, probes and shovels. In Hillmans Highway safe travel techniques in avalanche terrain were not being observed, ie: expose only one person at a time, never travel over or under another person, and always have an escape route in mind. Do not climb up the middle of gullies, go from one safe anchor to another as you work your way up the gully.

More people in this country get caught in avalanches under a Moderate rating than any other because of the human factor, “well, Moderate isn’t too bad” is a common thought. Remember the definition of Moderate – avalanches are possible. Also remember that Moderate is a range within the 5-scale spectrum and is not a “point” on a line. This means on some days it is close to Low and on others it is near Considerable, but still within the definition of “Moderate”. This is an important point to remember for all 5 ratings from Low to Extreme. Just because it is spring and the weather is beautiful, you cannot ignore the avalanche potential. Spring can be a dangerous time of the year when we get late-season snow. It is a busy time in the ravines, where even on a quiet day several dozen skiers/riders may be in the ravine. The identical snow stability mid-winter usually goes without incident, but during the spring over a thousand potential triggers (skiers, riders) are swarming avalanche terrain. Keep in mind that when someone heads up a slope it doesn’t mean it’s safe. It may just mean they don’t know what they are doing. You need to know the conditions and always think twice before following.

What may have saved the two that were buried in Hillmans Highway was the quick response from bystanders. You must be able to carry out a self-rescue in the event of a burial, as time is critical. If you must go for help, it is generally considered too late.

Personnel Used: USFS- 4 AMC – 3 Volunteer – 8

The rescue took 2 hours.

5-5-2002: 5-5-2002: The victim was hiking down to hermit Lake from the ravine when he fell. He suffered a dislocated open thumb fracture. A member of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol met him on the trail and rendered assistance, taping his thumb. The victim then walked down to Pinkham and transported himself to Androscoggin Valley Hospital.