Ice Climbing – Huntington Ravine

On 12-27-1998, an ice climbing accident occurred in Odell’s gully in Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. BC and his partner started up the steep water ice of Odell’s gully. BC began leading out. They were climbing the route with a running belay. About 25 meters out, BC placed one 22 cm ice screw. As he came to the end of their 50 meter rope, he started to place another screw. While doing so, his partner began climbing. The second slipped and fell, pulling BC off his stance. BC was 25 meters out from his last protection and fell approximately 50 meters. BC slid and bounced down the low angle ice. Both the leader fall and the belayer were held by the single ice screw. BC exhibited painful swelling in the pelvis/hip area and was unable to walk. With the assistance of volunteers and SAR personnel in the area, BC was immobilized in a Cascade toboggan and carried/sledded to Pinkham Notch.

Both climbers were experienced and well equipped. They were training for a winter climbing trip to Mount Katahdin.

Comments

The climbers were climbing within their abilities. Climbing with a running belay or “simul-climbing” is a common technique for the snow and ice gullies of Huntington Ravine. Climbing in this fashion is clearly more risky than belayed climbing, depending on weather conditions. Placing additional protection would have minimized the distance of the leader fall. When climbing with a running belay, the second must take care not to climb when the leader has stopped to place protection.

The rescue required 16 persons and 76 person hours.