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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.

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.