Hiker dies on Mt Washington

11:53 a.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
136 reviewer rep
623 forum posts

This story is a couple of weeks old, but already this climbing season we have seen multiple accidents since the new year.


I can only guess that this man was trying to get down even though it was after dark, so that his family wouldn't have to deal with the stress of thinking he was stuck on the mountain, lost, or dead.


He possibly should have had supplies with him that would have allowed him to set up an emergency bivy for the night, and descend safely in daylight.


Just another unfortunate yet good reminder, to travel safely in mountain terrain, and be prepared for anything.



Hiker dies after falling on NH's Mount Washington January 10, 2012

PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H.—A Massachusetts hiker has died after falling on Mount Washington.

Officials say 46-year-old Patrick Scott Powers of Mansfield., Mass., fell about 800 feet while descending the mountain after dark on Monday.

Powers started the day hike up the mountain Monday morning from Pinkham Notch. Officials say after reaching the summit he fell down snow and ice covered slopes into Tuckerman Ravine between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Rescuers worked through the night, getting to Pinkham Notch at 2 a.m. They say Powers died of his injuries.

Officials say temperatures at the summit were around 9 degrees with low visibility, light snow and winds of 40 to 50 mph all day.dingbat_story_end_icon.gif

12:38 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
64 forum posts

800'   WOW

2:10 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
Tom D
38 reviewer rep
1,902 forum posts

There's more on this on www.ViewsfromtheTop.com


Apparently Tuckerman is really treacherous in the winter. Never been there, but I've seen some pictures. Not a place you want to be wandering around in the dark.

2:47 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
136 reviewer rep
623 forum posts

it is very dangerous in the winter. Much of the mountain is, but both ravines  on the east side are particularly bad. I'm heading there on Feb 5th and 6th to attempt the summit but there are certain rules to follow.

I bring everything I need to survive for at least 3 days, including a light weight stove to melt water, food that can be cooked and that doesn't require cooking, a waterproof, windproof sleeping bag, extra emergency supplies, first aid kits, cell phone, and extra dry clothing.

Daylight is a little longer now, so if I haven't summited by 2pm, I turn around no matter how close to the top I am. In December or January, my turn around time is 12 since there is less daylight. I don't think the man in this example followed the turn around time since he was heading down well after dark at almost 8pm.

Any Avalanche rating beyond low, don't go. Look for natural avalanches and exit routes that those natural ones tend to follow. If you see signs of recent snow fall or run out areas, that's a bad sign - go home. Conduct field tests to understand the snow pack - sometimes avalanche ratings are wrong.

With this current weather, ratings are high risk. The snow has loaded onto slopes from high winds and it has loaded onto surfaces that were crystalized snow and hard ice. The rain we are getting then trickles down through that snow, lubricating the slick surfaces under the newer snow, and making the newer snow heavier as well. It's the perfect situation for a slab avalanche to break off.

Also, the higher than norm temperatures and rapid cooling on colder days have caused many of the routes in the ravine to be like an ice flume. One slip and you're making a quick clip towards the hazards that are still exposed since there's no snow covering them.

8:24 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts

Bivy sack ?

                   ~ r2 ~

9:37 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
40 forum posts

Mt Washington is not to be taken lightly. A few years back I was researching for a trip there and came upon a book listing the tragedies on the mountain. The book listed that there was at least one fatality every year for the past 110 years.

     Rick Wilcox of IME in Conway will attest to this. He's part of the S&R team that goes out to help up there.

9:52 p.m. on January 27, 2012 (EST)
2,795 reviewer rep
1,638 forum posts

I read this story when it first happened, it's a sad tale indeed. But it should serve as a reminder of how deadly Mt. Washington or any mountain can be in winter. Always be prepared for any and all conditions, and be prepared to spend the night or two.

Why anyone would attempt a descent through tuckermans ravine at night in the winter is beyond me, especially when it was a solid sheet of ice , that is just crazy IMO. It's way too dangerous.

2:30 a.m. on January 28, 2012 (EST)
Tom D
38 reviewer rep
1,902 forum posts

If you follow the link I posted, you will see many comments by people familar with the area and links to other accounts in local papers about this incident. I doubt this hiker intended to descend Tuckerman at night, but we will never know.

2:31 p.m. on January 28, 2012 (EST)
293 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

Sad news.  Hope fully learning news for the rest of us.

8:03 p.m. on January 28, 2012 (EST)
60 reviewer rep
116 forum posts

I've made numerous descents into Tuckermans and even on the most epic days it can be confusing.  

I've had episodes of vertigo many times while fighting the wind and blowing snow in the upper snowfield.  Its fairly easy to lose balance without a fixed point to lock onto, and that's in the daytime.   I've learned to lower my center, set my footing and try to anchor myself to the surface.  

There are also a few reverse false summits that will lead you right to the cliffs.  Thats why I only descend Tucks when I've climbed up that route.  Even on a good day walking down Chute is hair-raising.  I might have tried for left gully were I in his situation.  Actually I probably would have headed back to the top and told the guys in the Obs I had made a series of mistakes and was disoriented and ill equipped, and would be happy to pay for my mistakes but not with my life.  


3:02 p.m. on January 29, 2012 (EST)
Tom D
38 reviewer rep
1,902 forum posts

Hey MoZee, where'd you catch that tuna?

4:04 a.m. on January 30, 2012 (EST)
60 reviewer rep
116 forum posts

We were right in the region of Georges Bank out of Gloucester, MA.  

A friend of mine I used to do some climbing and skiing with in Vermont packed up and headed for the coast about 10 years ago and has earned his Captains license and nice boat.  A few of us get together and head out for a couple days on the sea each year and do some catching up.  This was one of the better days for sure.

11:15 a.m. on January 30, 2012 (EST)
136 reviewer rep
623 forum posts

mozee you are right that it can be very disorienting up there. Willow wands are a good strategy and one that I use above tree line for this reason. It could be sunshine one minute and 10 foot visibility the next. When you break above your route onto the ridge, you should place a willow wand with reflective tape on the top every 25-50 meters or so. It will help you find the way down if visibility changes or if your tracks get washed away from high winds.


Scholckmyr - I believe the book is called Not Without Peril. And yes the mountain is dangerous, especially in winter. It is estimated by some websites as the 8th most dangerous mountain in the world as far as the number of people who have died on it.

1:15 p.m. on January 30, 2012 (EST)
7,463 reviewer rep
1,708 forum posts

He fell 800 feet!  I didn't know there was anything that tall back East.  (kidding!)

For a 6,000 foot peak it sure kills a lot of people! I am guessing these guys aren't the ones taking the road or train to the top?

Summitpost says there are hurricane-force winds one out of every three days, thats nasty.  Looking it up it looks like its the wind and cold that get people.  Like they say, worst weather in the world. 

Sounds like a good place to try out cold weather gear.

6:43 p.m. on January 30, 2012 (EST)
136 reviewer rep
623 forum posts

sage it's a great place to try out cold weather gear, it can have snow and hail storms in the middle of summer.

The climbing on the mountain, especially in winter, is really great, challenging and dangerous. Huntington ravine and Tuckerman ravine are the 2 most challenging and dangerous spots on the mountain, but others are dangerous as well.

I recently was on a winter hike with a friend (in the last couple of years) and met up with David Roberts. For those of you who don't know who he is, do some research. I have heard from him, and other very experienced guides, that climbing on this mountain can prepare you for any mountaineering environment in the world (minus the altitude).

You've got extreme cold, extreme weather, technical climbing, ice climbing, snow climbing, mixed terrain, avalanches, and more.

I feel lucky, yet cautious and respectful, to have it a mere 2 hour drive away!

July 11, 2020
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply