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Lion Head Winter Route Glissade

A group was descending the Lion Head Winter Route, when one of the member of the group lost control of his glissade. He slid an unknown length, impacted trees along the way, and came to rest wedged between two trees just above the first steep pitch on the route ( atop the “rock step”). The party was able to reach 911 via cell phone, and also local caretakers from the AMC heard their voices while skiing and went over to assist. Due to the unfortunate location of where he came to rest, stabilization and extrication was difficult and took longer than usual for accidents in this area. The patient was eventually packaged on a backboard in a rescue litter, which was lowered by rope through the steep sections of trail. He was loaded into the USFS snowcat and transferred to an ambulance at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Overall the rescue involved 2 Snow Rangers, 2 caretakers, one bystander, and a handful of people from the group. The total time from injury to when he was transferred to the ambulance was approximately 4-5 hours.

Although this patient’s injuries were caused by impact with trees, we would like to remind everyone that glissading while wearing crampons is a dangerous activity. Every year people are injured doing this. You are better off staying on your feet if you are wearing crampons. If you do want to glissade, we recommend removing your crampons first. The Lion Head Winter Route is a steep route that requires the ability to self arrest to navigate safely. We recommend hikers should not only have an ice axe and crampons, but be experienced in how to use them effectively.

Glissading accident

A group of mountaineers were glissading the Lion Head Winter Route when one of them lost control and fell down approximately 75-100 feet through the trees to the bottom of the steep section of trail. Along the way he hit some trees and came to a stop against a large stump. USFS Snow Rangers were notified of the incident by a hiker who had been sent to Hermit Lake to get help. Although below the steepest section of trail, the patient was found in terrain sufficiently steep to warrant belaying the litter downhill until the flat section of trail. From here he was sledded to the junction of the Winter Route and the Huntington Ravine Winter Access Trail, then transported via snowmobile and haul sled to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. The Winter Route is a steep mountaineering route which requires the ability to self arrest in the event of a fall. Glissading was a reasonable descent option given the soft snow conditions on this day; however, one should never glissade at a speed beyond his or her ability to self arrest.

Sliding Fall. Glissading Hillman’s Highway

The victim snowshoed up Hillman’s Highway and attempted to glissade down when he lost control. He took a long, high-speed fall the length of the gully, hitting rocks along the way. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and numerous abrasions to the face and his left side. He was treated by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was able to walk to Pinkham on his own. This incident took 2 people 1 hour.

The previous day we received rain on the snowpack which then froze overnight. Conditions in Hillman’s Highway were very hardpack, icy and unforgiving. Skiers and riders should think twice about venturing onto slopes when conditions are such that without an ice axe you will not be able to stop a fall. One of the victims that fell was wearing snowshoes. Snowshoes are great for deep snow in rolling terrain but they are not intended for steep icy gully climbing. The snowshoe crampon system is designed to float over snow, not ice climb. Having the appropriate equipment for the terrain is essential for being safe in the mountains. Know your equipment, the advantages and limitations before you venture out into the backcountry.

Glissading with Crampons

The vicim was glissading in Tuckerman Ravine while wearing crampons. His crampon caught on the snow and he injured his ankle. His friends assisted him to Hermit Lake where they sought help from Forest Service Snow Rangers. The Snow Rangers assessed his injury and splinted his ankle. He was transported to Pinkham via the USFS snowcat. This rescue took 2 people 1 hour.

Comments:

This is the third incident this season of glissading with crampons on that resulted in an injury. This is one of the most common yet preventable injuries we see on the mountain. Glissading with crampons should never be attempted. If you want to glissade take the time to remove your crampons.

Glissading in Tuckerman Ravine

The victim was glissading in Tuckerman Ravine while wearing crampons. His crampon caught in the snow and he twisted his ankle. He made his way to Hermit Lake where he sought assistance from Forest Service Snow Rangers. He was transported to Pinkham in the USFS snowcat. This rescue took 1 person 1 hour.

Glissading – Huntington Ravine

The victim was glissading down the Escape Hatch in Huntington Ravine when her crampon got caught on a small tree. She suffered an ankle injury as a result. She was lowered by her party approximately 90 meters to the floor of Huntington where she was put into a litter. A USFS Snow Ranger met the group and transported the victim behind a snowmobile 2/3 of the way down the trail. The last 1/3 of the trail she was carried/sledded in a litter down to Pinkham Notch. This rescue took 6 people 2 hours.

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.

Glissading – Sliding Fall

On 2-15-99, BM was involved in a serious accident on the summit cone of Mount Washington. At approximately 1500, BM and his partners left the summit of Mount Washington, descending the southeast snowfields. The slope angle varies from 30 to 35 degrees where the accident occurred. About half way down from the summit, BM began glissading the snowfield. He lost control, gained speed, and caught his crampons on the surface. The slide was estimated to be approximately 200 feet, with many boulders hit along the way.

BM suffered an angulated boot-top fracture of the right leg, and swollen painful deformities of the right hand and right chest area. A lengthy rescue followed, which was not completed until 2:30 AM the following day. The rescue involved 7 pitches of raising over steep snow via a counter balance haul system. BM was raised to the summit and brought down the Mount Washington Auto Road with the assistance from the Mount Washington Observatory snow vehicle.

Comments

BM was glissading with his crampons on. Climbers must remove their crampons to glissade steep snow covered slopes. There have been several accidents on Mount Washington this winter where climbers began to glissade on their backsides without removing the crampons. Several of these accidents have resulted in fractured legs and ankles and lengthy rescue efforts.

The surface conditions at the time were extremely hard and icy, making self arrest difficult. Glissading steep, icy slopes without a good runout can be very dangerous.

Any accident in winter on Mount Washington can become life threatening given the notoriously harsh winter weather. Fortunately for BM and the rescuers, the weather was reasonably mild. BM was well equipped and had warm outerwear which helped keep him comfortable during the lengthy rescue, and may have prevented additional damage to his leg. Climbers, hikers and skiers would do well to prepare for the worst when climbing the mountain in winter.
The rescue required 15 people and 120 hours.