Three climbers injured in an avalanche on Mt. Washington

6:45 p.m. on January 18, 2013 (EST)
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http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2013/01/ap-three-hikers-hurt-avalance-new-hampshire-011813/

All three survived with minor to moderate injuries. I can't say a night time ascent was the smartest thing, but glad they are all ok. It's that time of year, pay attention to avalanche risk and test the snow pack!

 

6:51 p.m. on January 18, 2013 (EST)
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Re: There climbers injured in an avalanche on Mt. Washington

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130117/NEWS07/130119220

 

From the "Ascents of Honor" Facebook page:
UPDATE: Unfortunately our summit bid was unsuccessful. As we approached the top of Huntington Ravine, a slab avalanche broke loose and swept three of our climbers down to the bottom of the ravine. They were injured, but able to slowly make their way to rescuers, who assisted them off the mountain. The other nine climbers were able to descend and walk out of the ravine on their own power. While this is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for, we are thankful that all in our party are safely off the mountain. We extend a heartfelt thanks to the US Forest Service and local Mountain Rescue Service personnel for their assistance, and look forward to sharing more details after we all get some rest. Thank you all for your support throughout this project!

 

 

7:47 p.m. on January 18, 2013 (EST)
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Re: There climbers injured in an avalanche on Mt. Washington

I'm climbing Mt Washington tomorrow. Leaving the house at 4am. I'm not expecting to summit due to forecasted weather conditions. The high winds and extreme cold on their own isn't the problem, it's the loose snow and flurries that will whip around causing white out conditions making navigation tough. I plan to head a little above tree line using wands but I know better than to venture onward if the forecast is bad.

Also, these climbers decided to go up despite the moderate avalanche warning. I know everyone has their own comfortable risk level, but I personally will never climb above a low warning. I suspect their deadlines to meet the expectations of a fundraiser climb had something to do with pushing on despite the poor conditions. Not a good decision, obviously, because they caused an avalanche.

3:01 p.m. on January 19, 2013 (EST)
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Climbing at night was not relevant to this incident.  In fact travel in snow country is often started in the dark after 1am, when the snow fact is frozen solid, so the group can reach their destination before the sun has time to soften and destabilize the snow pack.  Instead their error was being out there late in the day, after the sun had the whole day to warm the snow pack.  I think they had no idea what they were doing.  But their time line may be a moot issue.  As Iclimb noted, the forecast indicated a slide hazard level that should make travelers reconsider starting out on such a trip in the first place.  From the description it sounds like they were caught up in a wind slab avalanche, a snow condition that can slide at any temperature.

Chalk this one up to hubris, the climber has only himself to blame.  In the host climber's own words from a blog last month: "In the middle of anything that is difficult, we have the option of quitting, slowing down, or changing course. My life has been about ignoring that option."  This damn-the-machine-guns mentality has killed more climbers than most any other reason.  The mountains are a foolish place to show off one’s heroics.  Lucky, but perhaps none the wiser...

Ed

4:46 p.m. on January 19, 2013 (EST)
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the lion's head approach to the upper part of the mountain and toward the summit cone is safer in the winter.  Huntington's is more difficult and more prone to avalanches and icefall, and consequently experiences a much higher percentage of accidents.   

5:39 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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True, but as I recall Albert Dow was killed by an avalanche on the Lion's Head trail during the 1982 search effort for Hugh Herr and his buddy, so it's not guaranteed safe either.

10:32 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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I like whome's post.

11:59 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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We made it back from our trip just fine. Went up Lion's head winter route, which as leadbelly said, is much safer when avalanche dangers are higher elsewhere. I believe avalanche warnings for both ravines were considerable, so we made the smart choice. We made it up to 1000 feet from the summit and I stuck to my strict rule with alpine climbing of turning around by 1 pm.

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We were sooo close, but the going was slow due to 80 mph sustained winds and some tricky footing where winds had scoured snow away exposing lots of rock. Conditions above our point seemed to be possibly deteriorating as the summit was in the clouds with high winds and snow. I don't remember seeing that much rock up there in winter on any of my other trips, it was pretty bare.

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We didn't summit but we got to climb some steeps and enjoy a great day above tree line. Any day on the mountain is better than most anything else I could have been doing.

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Interesting conversation I had with one guy on the way down. My climbing partner and I were using ropes to manage the steep sections where a fall could prove to be very unfriendly, and he asked to go by while we were tying in. I let him go but told him he was welcome to use the rope if he wanted. He declined and I told him "Pride is getting home, I saw 4 falls on the way up and they slid into the trees below." Luckily none of the hikers got injured. He used the rope, haha.

2:49 p.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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BigRed is correct - no route is absolutely safe, and Albert Dow was descending near the Lion's Head when he died in an avalanche while serving as part of the team that was searching for two missing climbers.  But, the Lion's Head trail is still widely considered to be the safest way to ascend and descend Mt. Washington from that side of the mountain.

iClimb: sounds great.  A lot of my trips  up there look about the same, for the same reasons.  sticking to that turn-around time and respecting the weather are so important.  

2:01 p.m. on January 21, 2013 (EST)
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Geez there's a toad all the way to the top ya know, lol!

4:19 p.m. on January 21, 2013 (EST)
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I think you have to be on some kind of magic mushroom to ride this toad to the top ;)

8:42 p.m. on January 21, 2013 (EST)
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BigRed said:

True, but as I recall Albert Dow was killed by an avalanche on the Lion's Head trail during the 1982 search effort for Hugh Herr and his buddy, so it's not guaranteed safe either.

 Hugh Herr. Wow, that's a name I haven't heard in a while. If I remember right, he's now a professor at MIT - yep-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Herr

Herr is a good example of an obviously incredibly smart guy, top of his skill, who found himself in a very bad situation. He paid a pretty heavy price, but at least he made it back.

11:12 a.m. on January 22, 2013 (EST)
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Herr had a pretty bad rep among AMC folks (like my wife) for many years after that incident, the judgement being that his and his partner's stupidity led to the death of Albert Dow (see thread on rescues in NH). But I've heard various interviews and radio (podcast actually) stories about him and it seems like he's doing same amazing stuff with "smart" prosthetic limbs, as well as still climbing at a high level with his own prosthetics. I don't think there's much question that none of that would have happened if he had gotten off the mountain with all his limbs intact or, alternatively and obviously, had died before rescuers found him. I gotta admire the guy for turning around a very bad outcome, one that would have defeated most people, into some very meaningful and productive work.

11:24 a.m. on January 22, 2013 (EST)
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I think I meant ROAD. lol

September 30, 2014
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