A party of five people were practicing mountaineering skills under Central Gully in Huntington Ravine. As they packed up to leave a loose snow avalanche came down and knocked three of them off of their feet. One individual caught his foot between some rocks and broke his lower leg just below the knee. While people went to get help, the party splinted the injury and managed to get the person down the talus to the floor of the ravine. At this point they were met by a USFS Snow Ranger and more bystanders who put the patient into a litter and assisted in the evacuation down to Pinkham Notch where they were met by an ambulance.
At the time of this accident, Huntington Ravine was under a General Avalanche Advisory due to an overall lack of snow. However, as the advisory stated: “…it’s important to realize that avalanche activity may occur within these locations before the issuance of a 5-scale forecast. This is a critical fact to remember. Under a General Advisory you need to make your own avalanche stability assessments before venturing into any open slopes.” The day this accident occurred, there were strong indicators of increasing avalanche danger. These included new snowfall that exceeded the forecasted amounts of 2 to 4” and west winds blowing on the Summit between 40 and 50 mph, which are ideal for loading snow into easterly aspects such as Central Gully. Additionally, the group was below an avalanche path in poor visibility with another party above them and no one in the group was carrying an avalanche beacon, probe, or shovel. These are all violations of basic avalanche safety and travel rules. While the avalanche that struck the party was quite small, it was big enough to create a problem for their group. Underestimating this type of avalanche activity can create big problems for climbers—small slides that knock you off your feet resulting in high consequences. The group, as well as the bystanders who assisted, should be complimented for their efforts in caring for the patient and beginning to self-rescue as additional help was being sought out.