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Skier Fall – Chute

The victim fell coming down the Chute and slid and tumbled into the bowl. The victim suffered minor abrasions to the face and chin. He was attended to by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. The victim left the Ravine on his own. The incident took about ½ hour and 1 person.

Injured Skier – Gully #3

The victim was descending Gully #3 (near Hillmans Highway) when he fell. He hit a tree in the “split position” and his lower left leg hit the tree. Victim suffered a knee injury to his left knee. His knee was immobilized, he was placed in a litter and taken to Hermit Lake. From there he was placed in a sled and taken down to Pinkham behind the USFS snowmobile. The rescue took 3 people and about 3 hours.

Long Sliding Fall – Hillman’s Highway

The victim was hiking up Hillmans Highway to snowboard. He fell approximately 200-300 feet on the icy surface suffering multiple abrasions. He was lowered by the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol about 400 feet with a boot/ice axe belay and then walked to the USFS cabin where his wounds were treated. Victim was able to walk down to Pinkham on his own.

Hiking Injury – Fall Tuckerman Ravine

On 4-13-01 BL and his two companions AF and AB were descending via the Lion Head trail. It was near 11:00 pm when, in the darkness and limited visibility due to blowing snow, BL fell off the trail into Tuckerman Ravine. His companions descended to find him. He was located after a ten-minute search due to the fact that his head lamp stayed on. BL was initially unresponsive when his companions found him. AF continued to Hermit Lake to seek assistance from the Hermit Lake Caretaker. At 11:30pm AB and BL arrived at Hermit Lake. BL was complaining about pressure around his eyes, had a 1-2” laceration on his head, and a very swollen face. Due to the unknown distance of his fall precautions where taken to immobilize his spine. He was put on a backboard, given oxygen, loaded into the Forest Service snowcat and transported to Pinkham. He was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in Conway, NH.

Comments

Route finding at night can be very difficult in the best of circumstances let alone in darkness with white-out conditions. Plan your day to ensure enough daylight for your hike. Have a turn around time in mind of when you will abandon you hike up in order to make it down safely. If you end up in dark and windy conditions, resist the temptation to put your back to the wind. Bring a map and compass and go the direction you are supposed to go, not the way that is most comfortable.

Personnel Used USFS – 1 AMC – 2

The rescue effort took approximately 1 3/4 hours total.

Injured Skier – Chute

Victim was skiing the Chute when he fell approximately 300 feet. He stated it “felt like my knee might have popped”. His knee was splinted by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. He was placed in a litter and sledded to the Little Headwall. He was then belayed over the Little Headwall and transferred to the USFS Snowcat, which took him down to Pinkham. The rescue took about 2 ½ hours and 4 people.

Injured Snowboarder – Lip

On 3-17-01 MR was snowboarding over the Lip when he fell and cartwheeled approximately 700 feet down the slope at a high rate of speed. Bystanders in the ravine came to the aid of MR while one person went to Hermit Lake to report the accident to the Forest Service and AMC caretaker. A cell phone call reporting the accident was received at 5pm, at the same time the person from the ravine reported it to the Snow Rangers. MR sustained a fractured femur of the left leg. He was put in a sager traction splint and placed in a rescue litter. Heat packs and a “hypo wrap” were applied to prevent hypothermia.

Due to the time of day and the possible severity of his injury DART medical helicopter was called. MR was littered to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine where he was loaded into the helicopter at 6:15pm.

Comments

Skiing or riding steep snowfields and gullys is an inherently dangerous sport. To help minimize your chance of being injured consider: wearing a helmet; using releasable bindings whenever possible; staying well hydrated; and skiing or riding when snow conditions are favorable. A common problem we see in the ravine is the skier/rider who tries to squeeze too many runs into a cold but sunny day. During the early part of the day the snow in the ravine softens due to solar radiation. By mid afternoon, the sun drops behind the ridge and the ravine is in the shade. The snow surface freezes very rapidly when this occurs. Now the skier/rider is at the top of the gully facing having to come down a hard, frozen surface. Having crampons and an ice axe is your best bet to get down the gully safely in these conditions, foregoing that last run down the slope. If you do not have this equipment, pay attention to the sun and the snow conditions and descend before the snowpack freezes up.

Personnel Used: USFS- 2 AMC – 7 MWVSP –1 Volunteer – 3

The rescue effort took approximately 2 hours total.

Sliding Fall – Right Gully

The victim was climbing up Right Gully to ski when a rockfall occurred above her In her attempts to get clear, she lost her footing on the steep snow and began to slide. The victim was unable to self-arrest as her poles and ice axe were on her pack at the time. The victim slid into the Lunch Rocks at the bottom of Right Gully. She struck multiple rocks along the way, and was airborne and tumbling. Victim suffered a boot-top fracture of the right leg After her injuries were assessed and the damaged leg splinted, members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, AMC staff and USFS Snow Rangers and other skiers commenced her evaucation from Tuckerman Ravine. The litter was lowered for 600 feet on belay to the floor of the Ravine. The litter was carried and slid over snow to the parking lot at Pinkham Notch. The rescue took about 4 hours and required 20 people.

Skier Injury – Hillman’s Highway

The victim was skiing in Hillman’s Highway. As he was making a turn in the snow he felt a “pop in his right knee. He then fell approximately 3-500 feet down the gully. Victim suffered a possible injury to the ACL of the right knee. His knee was spinted and he was able to walk out to Pinkham with the assistance of friends. The rescue took about 2 hours and required 4 people.

Injured Skier – Lip

The victim was skiing over the Lip when he “caught an edge” and tumbled down. Victim complained of instability in his left knee. His knee was splinted by members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. Victim was able to walk out to Pinkham with the assistance of friends.

Downclimbing Headwall

The victim was downclimbing with crampons and an ice axe on the Headwall when he fell about 3-400 feet. Victim suffered a broken wrist, broken ribs and a head laceration. His injuries were treated by the Mount Washington Valley Ski patrol. He walked down to Hermit Lake and was then transported to Pinkham in the USFS snowcat.

Skier Fall – Sluice

The victim was up in the Sluice preparing to ski. He lost his footing and tumbled down the gully. Victim suffered a fractured ankle. After injuries were assessed and the ankle splinted, members of the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, USFS Snow Rangers, AMC staff and other skiers commenced his evacuation from Tuckerman Ravine. The litter was lowered on belay the last pitch on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail into Hermit lake. Victim was loaded onto the USFS Snowcat to Pinkham Notch. The rescue took about 3 hours and required 20 people.

Avalanche Right Gully

An avalanche accident occurred in the Right Gully of Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. Right Gully is a 1000 foot snow gully with a slope angle ranging from 35 to 40 degrees. The climbers destination was the summit of Mount Washington. At approximately 1130, an avalanche was triggered by 2 climbers near the top of the gully. Four other climbers were also in the gully at the time the avalanche swept down. The four climbers had no warning and were unable to take evasive action to avoid the slide. PB was carried approximately 600 feet down to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine. WL and DC were carried approximately 300 feet. None of them were buried by the avalanche debris. PB suffered a fractured right tibia, WL a sprained left ankle, and DC a sprained right ankle. JE was not caught in the avalanche and escaped without injury.

The avalanche danger in Tuckerman Ravine was posted as Moderate. The avalanche was a pocket of windslab, which had been deposited on a combination of old, wind-packed snow and a rain crust. It appears to have been the only deposit of unstable snow in the gully, as no other snow was entrained by the slide. Crampons and ice axes were needed to safely ascend the gully.

Bystanders at the scene immediately began to assist the injured climbers. By the time the USFS snow ranger and search and rescue personnel arrived, the victims had been put into Cascade toboggans gathered from the nearby rescue cache. Rescue personnel and volunteers evacuated the injured to Hermit Lake, where the US Forest Service Thiokol was used to continue the transport to Pinkham Notch and the awaiting ambulance.

The debris from the avalanche was 180 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 2.5 feet deep. The maximum depth of the fracture was 18 inches. The fracture was approximately 175 feet wide. The track of the avalanche was 800 vertical feet.

Comments

The avalanche danger was posted at Moderate in Right Gully. The area that avalanched was an isolated pocket of unstable snow. Only this pocket was released, and very little other snow was entrained in the track of the avalanche. The area received 4.3 inches of snow in the previous 48 hours, with north winds gusting up to 60 m.p.h.. Right gully has a mostly south and southeast aspect.

Safe travel skills must be observed at all times in avalanche terrain when there is a danger of avalanches. The climbers caught in this slide were not practicing safe travel technique. They were traveling together up the gully, with another party above them.

Snow conditions were indeed stable where the victims were climbing, they were probably unaware of the unstable snow higher in the gully. Travelers in avalanche terrain should always be aware of what is above them and to have an escape route planned. These climbers were very lucky. They were not buried by the avalanche. They were not equipped with avalanche transceivers or shovels for self rescue. It was a small avalanche with a relatively benign run-out zone. Had the avalanche dragged them through an area known as Lunch Rocks located 150 feet west of the path of the avalanche, the outcome may not have been so fortunate.

The avalanche was triggered by 2 climbers also ascending to the summit of Mount Washington. They were aware that there were other climbers in the gully below them at the time of the avalanche. They declined to descend to the accident scene, choosing rather to continue on to the summit.

Long Sliding Fall – Lower Snowfields

On 2-13-1999, VM and her partner were descending the Lower Snowfields in Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington. The snow conditions were extremely hard, the result of a mid-winter rain storm. They decided to practice self arrest technique. The slope angle of the Lower snowfields is about 35 degrees, with a poor runout of trees and shrubby vegetation. From the top of the snowfield, VM began a deliberate slide. She was unable to self arrest, and experienced a sliding, tumbling fall of approximately 500 feet into the scrub vegetation.

She was evacuated from the base of the slope in a Cascade toboggan to Hermit Lake, and then to Pinkham Notch via US Forest Service Thiokol snow vehicle.

Injuries included swollen, painful deformities of both legs and right arm, multiple abrasions and contusions and hypothermia.

Comments

Self-arrest technique must be practiced on small, unobstructed practice slopes where a safe runout is assured. Slopes such as the Lower Snowfields can be a good place for such practice, but deliberate slides from the top of this 500 foot slope are not recommended, even under the best conditions. Ideally, the best slopes are those where excessive speed will not cause injury in the event of an uncontrolled slide.

The snow conditions at the time of the accident were extremely unfavorable for self arrest. Any type of fall can be difficult to arrest under such conditions, let alone a slide of this distance.

VM was wearing crampons while practicing self arrest. The importance of removing crampons during self arrest practice or when glissading can not be underestimated. It is likely that VM injured both legs by catching the points of her crampons as she slid down the slope.

VM was characterized as a novice and her partner as experienced.

The rescue required 23 people and 27 person hours.