On January 25, a group of skiers was descending the John Sherburne Ski Trail. Around 2:40 pm, just above crossover #7, one skier lost control due to a waterbar and dislocated their left shoulder during the fall. The individual had reportedly dislocated the same shoulder multiple times before and had a prior surgery as a result.
Fortunately, the individual was skiing with a well-prepared group. The group sat the skier down on a foam pad and provided extra puffy jackets and pants to retain warmth. Unable to reduce the shoulder in the field, the group tracked details of patient history and vitals while calling for help. The temperature hovered between 15-20F at their location and the trees provided the party with shelter from wind.
Snow rangers arrived on scene at 3:30 pm, finding the individual shivering but in good spirits surrounded by their group. The individual was helped onto a snowmobile and the injured arm was slung. The individual was then transported down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail and reconvened with their group in the parking lot at 4 pm.
A normal or even mild day in the Presidential Range is still a bitterly cold day, particularly in the afternoon when the sun disappears behind the ridge. Perceived warmth while climbing and making turns in the sunshine becomes a distant memory when sitting in the snow and the shade, in discomfort or pain. If this incident had occurred in a more remote area or if snow rangers had not been standing next to snowmobiles upon receiving word of the incident, this relatively brief waiting game easily could have turned into a more serious situation.
Stack the odds in your favor. Recreate with extra gear for a worst-case scenario, and choose friends that do the same. Stay within view of one another, particularly in steep terrain. Remember that backcountry conditions are highly variable and a powdery waterbar can easily be followed by a rock-solid, wind-scoured waterbar. Keep your tips down and your head up.
USFS and MWVSP responded to an injured skier being transported from the base of Lunch Rocks sitting on a snowboard provided by volunteers who were sitting at Lunch Rocks. Bystanders were directed to continue to transport the subject to a location away from ice fall hazard. Patient had fallen without binding release and sustained a lower leg injury. USFS and an AMC Caretaker assisted the patient to Hermit Lake where he was transferred to a litter and snowmobile drawn sled. Patient was driven to the Tuck trail/Fire Road junction where transport to PNVC continued with the assistance of two climbers descending from Pinnacle Gully.
At approximately 1600, Snow Rangers received word via radio that a skier with a laceration was being treated on the Sherburne Ski Trail. Snow Rangers and MWVSP members responded to find that the patient had been treated and the wound properly dressed by a recreating ski patroller and was being transported down the trail in a sled or on a snowboard. Interviews revealed that the subject had received a full depth laceration around 8” long just above the knee after falling in the wet, slushy snow. The person skiing behind her was following too closely and no doubt learned a harsh but important lesson about the need for safe following distances and controlled skiing in a backcountry environment.
This was a very busy day in the ravine, in part because it was the first Saturday this season with really nice spring weather. The first incident was a dislocated shoulder resulting from a fall in Left Gully. After an unsuccessful attempted to reduce the dislocation, the patient and his party were able to walk themselves out from the ravine.
Shortly after the first, a skier fell in the Sluice area, resulting in a lower leg injury. Within minutes of this fall, another skier fell in the Lip, suffering a significant head laceration. Both patients were evacuated by Snow Rangers, the MWVSP, the AMC caretaker, and a large number of volunteers.
The fourth incident was sustained on the lower part of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. A hiker punctured his lower leg on a broken branch when stepping off the trail. He was able to continue hiking.
A skier suffered a lower leg injury while descending the Tuckerman Ravine trail on skis. He and his partner had been skiing the Cutler River streambed, and had bushwacked back to the hiking trail due to thick vegetation. They were working toward a crossover to the Sherburne Ski Trail when he caught his ski tip on the edge of the trail. Snow Rangers were in the vicinity at the time of the accident, and found the skier on the side of the trail. They transported him to the base, from here he was transported to the hospital in his partner’s vehicle.
A skier was injured while booting up the Chute when he attempted to stop another falling skier. The patient suffered a 2″ laceration to the left ear. MWVSP members treated and released the patient. The falling skier was uninjured.
A skier fell near the top of the Chute, slid to about the Narrows and then “log-rolled” before finally stopping about 200′ above and right Gumdrop Rocks. Witnesses reported that the skier, who was skiing for his first time in Tuckerman Ravine, took about 2 turns and pre-released from the binding of one ski. Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol members and USFS Snow Rangers responded, treated and packaged the patient who was unconscious and seizing on arrival. It is unclear whether or not he impacted any rocks during the fall.
Due to the presentation of symptoms and the calm winds, a helicopter evacuation was ordered. Lifeflight of Maine, flying out of Bangor, transported the patient to Maine Med in Portland. The ability to fly into Tuckerman Ravine is very unusual due to the preponderance of days with turbulence, high winds, limited visibility, limited landing options or all four factors at once. Fortunately, a relatively limited number of skiers were in the bowl, which reduced the risk and consequence of mishap with the helicopter.
A skier fell near the bottom of the East Snowfields, on the summit cone of Mt. Washington. He told us that his ski contacted a hidden rock buried beneath a thin amount of snow. This caused him to fall, which sent him over the top of a large rock and he landed on a pile of more rocks. A friend of the skier notified personnel at the Mount Washington State Park, who contacted USFS Snow Rangers in Tuckerman Ravine. The skier was splinted for a pelvic injury, and then packaged for evacuation. He was hauled uphill in a rescue litter to the Auto Road. A large number of skiers assisted with the hauling operation, as well as State Park and USFS personnel. He was transported down the Auto Road in a State Park vehicle, to an ambulance at the base.
2:30pm: Skier fell while skiing Right Gully. He suffered a blow to his calf muscle causing significant swelling. This person was assessed, treated, and transported to Pinkham by snowmobile.