American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

United States, New Hampshire, White Mountains, Crawford Notch, Willey Slide

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1963

New Hampshire, White Mountains, Crawford Notch, Willey Slide. A scheduled A.M.C. Beginners’ Ice Climb was held on the Willey Slide, Crawford Notch, on Saturday, March 17th. The party included Bert Hirtle and Walter Herrmann, trip leaders, John Perry, Bob Leach, Wayne Keller, Alan Stroh, Charlie Wood, and Sally Mills (Mrs. Ronald).

A climb had been held there the previous weekend. Since that time there had been a fairly heavy snowfall, which because of at least two warm days was well consolidated and bonded to the older snow and ice.

After a morning spent in general belay and self-arrest practice, the party divided into ropes of two to climb the slide.

Leach and Mills on one rope were slightly to right of center of the slide. Mills led off over easy ice, secured by an ice-ax belay in the snow. Picking her route well, and climbing surely and with confidence for about seventy feet, she stopped on a fairly level snow-covered platform.

Perry, who was above and to the right of this point, was observing her. In his opinion the platform was a logical belay stance. After a quick look around, she moved toward the back left of the platform. The snow she was on and that below it suddenly slid off. She landed face down and applied self-arrest. The arrest kept her speed down until she went over an 80° drop about ten feet high. (On the way up she had diagonalled around this on much less steep ice.) It appeared that she caught her crampon on the less steep ice below. This flipped her into a “cartwheel.” She landed on her back in the snow and slid until stopped by the belay.

She made an attempt to move and then lay still. Leach went down to her position, keeping tension on the rope. She appeared dazed at first and then remarked that her right leg hurt. The other climbers converged on the spot. Hirtle and Perry after a brief examination decided the leg should be splinted. This was done with two ice-axes and several triangular bandages. While this was being done, two poles were cut and a stretcher was made using a nylon poncho. The quilted dacron jacket she was wearing was supplemented by a down jacket. She was wrapped in a full- zippered down sleeping bag and placed on the stretcher.

She was carried down the lower part of the slide under belay. Below the2 railroad tracks no belays were needed. Arriving at the road, she was placed in a station wagon and taken to the Littleton Hospital, where the injury was determined to be a broken ankle joint and leg.

The fall occurred at approximately 2:15 in the afternoon. Half an ho28ur was consumed in splinting the leg and preparing the stretcher. Th2ree hours were required for transportation to the road, and another ten minutes to load her in the car. Thirty-five more minutes saw her at th8e hospital.

Due to the fact that there were a number of trained first-aiders in the group, she arrived at the hospital in reasonable condition. Later, she expressed her thanks that the party was prepared with warm clothes and a 2s2leeping bag, had the know-how to cope with the situation, and the ability to put on a tremendou6s effort to carry out the evacuation from the slope.

Source: Bob Leach, Chairman Mountaineering Committee; Bert Hirtle; John Perry. Appalachia, 34, 127-128, 1962.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.