Hiker Glissading – Crevasse Tuckerman Ravine

On 4-28-01, JL and JN were descending Mt Washington after climbing up the Lion Head Trail. Above the ravine they started to glissade down the slope. JL lost his ice axe and started an uncontrolled fall on the hard pack snow and fell 20′ into a crevasse. JN tried to descend to assist JL and also fell uncontrolled into the crevasse, approximately 30′. Two skiers (FM & RF) in the ravine witnessed JN fall, FM tried to ski down the Lip to assist when he fell 500′ down the Lip. At approximately 7:00 pm FM reached the Snow Ranger Cabin at Hermit Lake and reported that a female had fallen down the headwall into a bunch of rocks. At the same time a 911 call was relayed to the Snow Rangers from the Maine State Police, who received a call from JN in the crevasse. Members of the MWVSP and AMC employees headed into the ravine to assist the injured female. Upon arrival at 7:15pm they saw the other skier, RF descending the “Lobster Claw”, he confirmed that an accident occurred on the Lip. A search was conducted, at 7:45pm the team found JL & JN in the crevasse. A rescuer was lowered into the crevasse, a harness was put on JL and he was extricated from the crevasse at 9:30 pm. He was then lowered by rope down the headwall put in a litter, belayed by a second team down the Little Headwall and transported to the Snow Rangers cabin, where he was treated for hypothermia and his injuries. Meanwhile, the rescuer in the crevasse splinted JN’s leg and helped her into a harness. JN was extricated from the crevasse at 11:19 pm, placed in a litter and lowered to the floor of the ravine. She was then belayed down the Little Headwall and transported to the Snow Rangers cabin. JN reached the cabin at 2:45am where she was treated for hypothermia and her injuries. JL and JN where then transported by the USFS snowcat to Pinkham Notch where they were placed in an ambulance at 5:00am.

JL suffered a ruptured spleen, ruptured liver and a bruised kidney. JN suffered two broken ankles and a fractured pelvis.

Comments

JL and JN where descending a route they were not familiar with. Always be aware of the hazards you may encounter. In Tuckerman Ravine in the spring you can expect to find crevasses, undermined snow and falling ice. Therefore, in this area it is best to climb up what you plan to come down so you will be familiar with the hazards you will encounter.

The snow conditions at the time of the accident were very hard and extremely unfavorable for self arrest. Glissading is not recommended when conditions are hard, you have hazards below you, you don’t know what is below you, or you don’t have a clear run out in case you lose control.

JL and JN were well prepared for a winter hike. Having the proper clothing and extra gear may have saved them from succumbing to hypothermia while waiting for extrication from the crevasse.

Personnel Used: USFS-2 AMC-3 MWVSP-7 Volunteers-3

The rescue effort took approximately 10 hours total.