Avalanche fatality in Pinnacle Gully

A solo ice climber died as a result of injuries sustained in an avalanche in Pinnacle Gully. On Friday, March 1, the climber left the HMC cabin near the base of Huntington Ravine intending to climb multiple gullies. Based on earlier conversations and tracking his foot prints in new snow, we believe he had climbed the ice pitches in Odell Gully, then descended a snow ramp into the bottom of South Gully before heading up into Pinnacle. While climbing what would be the 2nd pitch for a roped party, approximately 2/3 of the way up the route, the climber triggered a slab avalanche which carried him downslope. He was found by a hiker half way down the Fan, (the talus slope in the lower portion of the ravine) at approximately 3pm. The hiker, who is a physician, called 911 to report the accident. He reported that the victim had no vital signs and was deceased. USFS Snow Rangers responded from Hermit Lake to the scene. They located the victim, confirmed his status, and prepared him for transport to Pinkham Notch.

These details that follow are conclusions based on our investigation and information supplied by parties that climbed the route the following day. The avalanche released in the upper portion of the second pitch of the ice climb, just below a narrowing formed by exposed rock in the gully. The crown line was located about 20-30 feet uphill of where we believe the climber was when the avalanche released. It was 2’ deep, 20’ wide, and slid on a bed surface of water ice.  Avalanche danger on the day of the incident was rated Moderate.

Crown line is visible in this photo just below the rock constriction