2015-05-09 A woman was hiking down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail from Hermit Lake, when the snow and ice bridge she was walking on collapsed, causing a leg injury. She was transported in a litter to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center by members of her party, bystanders, MWVSP members, and USFS personnel.
2015-05-06 A group of three was descending the streambed between the bowl and the Little Headwall. One snowboarder was unable to avoid an open hole in the snowpack. He fell into the water with his snowboard still attached to his feet. His friends were able to quickly extend a ski pole to him. Despite being pulled by the force of rushing icy water, he was able to hold his position for several minutes. Eventually, he was unable to either be pulled up or hold on, and he was dragged underneath a snow bridge. Meanwhile, other bystanders had come along. One had entered the water on the downhill side and worked at freeing the snowboarder from that end. After a couple minutes, the snowboarder was pulled free from under the snow bridge.
He was hypothermic when extricated, with a diminished level of consciousness. His friends and bystanders worked to remove him from his soaked clothes and begin the rewarming process. AMC employees arrived on scene after he had been pulled from the water. By the time Snow Rangers arrived, his level of consciousness had improved and he was able to stand up under his own power. The snowboarder was able to walk himself down to the parking lot (with borrowed dry clothes.)
Each season, we try our best to inform skiers and snowboarders of the hazards related to riding the streambed. In this case, we had stopped recommending this as a descent route three days prior. The victim and his group stated that they were aware of the hazard presented by undermined snow. In this case, the group was very unlucky in that one fell into the water, but they were also very lucky that he came out of the situation alive. Many others had skied or ridden the slope in the days before this incident, long after the conditions had deteriorated beyond a safe level. Most of these people are unaware of how close they might have been to a similar incident, so in that respect, we see a big difference between this group and all the groups that do the same thing without consequence – at least this group now fully understands the risk involved.
2015-05-03 USFS and MWVSP responded to an injured skier being transported from the base of Lunch Rocks sitting on a snowboard provided by volunteers who were sitting at Lunch Rocks. Bystanders were directed to continue to transport the subject to a location away from ice fall hazard. Patient had fallen without binding release and sustained a lower leg injury. USFS and an AMC Caretaker assisted the patient to Hermit Lake where he was transferred to a litter and snowmobile drawn sled. Patient was driven to the Tuck trail/Fire Road junction where transport to PNVC continued with the assistance of two climbers descending from Pinnacle Gully.
2015-04-19 At approximately 1600, a skier took a long sliding fall down the Chute and suffered a lower leg injury. Patient was treated and assisted down the Tuckerman Ravine trail to Hermit Lake and then transported via snow cat to PNVC at 1700.
2015-04-19 At 1100, Snow Rangers and MWVSP members treated a woman who fell into the soft snow alongside the Tuckerman Ravine trail. Patient complained of knee pain, was treated and later transported via snow cat to PNVC at 1700.
2015-04-19 At approximately 0930 on a day which would see nearly 3000 visitors on the mountain, Snow Rangers received a relayed radio call from Gorham Dispatch via Mount Washington State Park staff of a hiker experiencing shortness of breath on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. One Snow Ranger and a MWVS Patroller descending to crossover #7, assessed the patient and transferred care from a nurse who had happened upon the gentlemen and rendered assistance. Personnel transported the patient via snowmobile and transferred him to Gorham Ambulance. The patient was transported to Memorial Hospital and flown by helicopter to the cardiac care unit at Maine Medical Center.
The laws of probability would dictate that some percentage of visitors will experience a form of trauma while engaging in a high risk activity like steep skiing or climbing in our terrain. Those same laws also support the reality that medical emergencies in otherwise healthy people also emerge. It is great to have the assistance of bystanders when situations arise since a busy day increases the chance that our personnel and equipment may be stretched thin by emerging incidents. Kudos to this nurse who stepped up to help a stranger in need.
2015-04-18 At approximately 1430, a pair of climbers made the all too common mistake of glissading without first removing their crampons. The resulting trauma to the lower leg of the less experienced member of the party resulted in a minor sprain. The patient was transported via Pisten Bully to Pinkham Notch.
2015-04-16 At approximately 1600, Snow Rangers received word via radio that a skier with a laceration was being treated on the Sherburne Ski Trail. Snow Rangers and MWVSP members responded to find that the patient had been treated and the wound properly dressed by a recreating ski patroller and was being transported down the trail in a sled or on a snowboard. Interviews revealed that the subject had received a full depth laceration around 8” long just above the knee after falling in the wet, slushy snow. The person skiing behind her was following too closely and no doubt learned a harsh but important lesson about the need for safe following distances and controlled skiing in a backcountry environment.
2015-04-11. At approximately 1500, two hikers flagged down passing Snow Rangers who were heading down for the day. The party had loaned their plastic sled to help a group transport a person with lower leg injury from the Lion Head Winter Route. We encountered a large family group about 100 yards up the trail from the Fire Road sliding a person down and making good time. The injured subject was well splinted with trekking poles and duct tape with continuous circulation, sensation and movement in the foot so we transferred her to the snowmobile and transported here to Pinkham Notch. Upon further assessment, it was evident that the injury was a fracture.
Though this group did a good job caring for the injury and would have made it down in good time, they were very poorly equipped for the Winter Route. The subject was wearing low, zippered “snow sneakers”, and while warm enough for the day’s weather conditions, this type of boot does not have a stiff enough sole for edging in firm snow nor the ankle support of a mountaineering boot. The victim lost their footing somewhere below the rock step, began sliding and sustained the injury when she arrested her fall with her foot against a tree trunk. There seemed to be a wide range of experience level among the group with only a few ice axes and pairs of crampons among them. It is important to remember the limitations of your group in terms of ability and experience when doing winter hikes in our unforgiving mountain range.
2015-04-03 (Situation #1): A party lost the trail while descending the Boott Spur ridge. They called the AMC visitor center for assistance, who directed them to call 911. The party spoke with the 911 dispatchers and expressed having lost the trail, having run out of food and water, and requested assistance. SAR groups responded to begin looking for them. During the mobilization of forces, the group was able to find the trail. They then descended to Pinkham and departed without checking out with the visitor center staff.
When the group got into cell phone service in Jackson, they received their phone messages that informed them that rescuers were on the mountain looking for them. They stated that they would have checked out if they had known that rescuers were searching. It’s hard to not be cynical about this statement. If you call 911 for any reason, rescuers will be actively working to assist you until they can verify there is no problem. If you call 911 for a backcountry accident, we still encourage you to try to help yourselves as much as possible. If you manage to fully self-rescue, please give the rescuers the courtesy of letting them know you no longer need assistance.
2015-04-03 (Situation #2): We received a call for help for an individual who had sustained injuries while descending the Lion Head Winter Route. The patient had fallen in the steep section of trail, sustaining non-life threatening injuries in the fall. He was extricated from the mountain by Forest Service Snow Rangers, AMC and HMC caretakers, MWVSP patrollers, and bystanders.
This is a very steep section of hiking. Appropriate equipment for the route includes an ice axe, crampons, and good quality winter mountaineering boots. In some conditions, more technical gear might be desirable. This individual was wearing boots more appropriate for summer hiking, along with lightweight traction devices. We cannot confirm that this was the cause of the fall or even played a supporting role. But it is something we observe regularly on this route.
2015-03-29 Several avalanches occurred today, including two naturally triggered avalanche in Tuckerman, two human triggered avalanches in Tuckerman, and one human triggered avalanche in Huntington. More information can be found here.
2015-03-08 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.