March 8, 2015

After arriving to Hermit Lake for the night, a group was practicing self arrest skills in the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine in the afternoon. While facing into the slope, the victim’s foot plunged into a posthole left behind from a previous ascent. He suffered a leg injury in the fall. USFS Snow Rangers were still in the parking lot at Pinkham when the call for help came. Snow Rangers responded with an MWVSP patroller, an MRS member, the AMC caretakers, the HMC caretakers, and bystanders. The victim was stabilized and transported to the USFS Pisten Bully waiting at the base of the Little Headwall.

This was not the typical sliding-with-crampons injury we frequently see. The actual mechanism of injury was unusual, but there is nothing about their story that puts doubt in our minds about what happened. One notable comment, however, is that avalanche danger that day was rated Moderate for the many slopes that converge on the area in which the group was located. No one in the group was carrying avalanche rescue equipment (i.e. transceivers, shovels, or probes.) Due to the snow loading taking place in the Headwall, rescue teams were limited in how many people ascending into avalanche terrain to assist, which ultimately extended the time necessary to bring the patient down off the mountain. Generally speaking, if you are leading a group into avalanche terrain, you should ensure that all members of the group are carrying appropriate rescue equipment and that you follow safe travel procedures to minimize your exposure to risk.