Maine: (1) Appalachian Mountains, Mt. Katahdin

Publication Year: 1952.

Maine: (1) Appalachian Mountains, Mt . Katahdin. On 18 March 1951 seven students of the Phillips Exeter Academy Mountaineering Club slid about 1,000 feet in a snow avalanche which they touched off during a winter ascent of this 5,268-foot mountain. Richard Greene, 16 of Seattle, Washington, who started the slide, was the only one injured. The slide carried him across a sharp rock, causing a four-inch wound in his thigh, necessitating evacuation to Millinocket, where Greene was hospitalized for two days.

The youths had spent most of their week of spring vacation in the area, and were climbing up a gully in ankle deep snow, which lay unbonded over an old crust. The party was using three ropes, with Greene’s rope in the lead. At the edge of the plateau, a drift of unconsolidated powder gave way and started a small avalanche, which swept five of the boys off their feet. In their wild slide down the gully, Greene struck the only exposed rock. His companions carried him to Roaring Brook, whence he was taken by dog team to Millinocket.

Source of information: Duscussion with all members of the party.

Analysis. The unconsolidated nature of cold powder snow over an old crust was not recognized by these climbers. Lack of experience with such conditions was the obvious cause of their fall. Better belaying procedures could have been employed by the two ropes that fell. One member of the party was eighteen years old, and the other six were sixteen and seventeen years of age. Most boys of this age, expecially in the Eastern States, cannot be expected to possess a full practical knowledge of snow conditions. It should be noted, however, that these young men demonstrated good training and presense of mind in employing the swimming technique to keep themselves on top of the snow, and in carrying out their injured comrade.