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New Hampshire, Mt. Washington

New Hampshire, Mt. Washington. On 3 January Leslie Buckland (35), leader, Duke Stock and Russell Hoyt were climbing in Huntington Ravine on Mt. Washington. Buckland had had a moderate amount of rock and ice climbing experience and had visited Mt. Washington in the summer. His two companions had been rock climbing before but were inexperienced climbers. Neither had done winter climbing nor had they been to Mt. Washington. The party was climbing to the right of Central Gully near the summer Huntington Ravine Trail. They moved slowly and it was necessary to descend before reaching the top of the Ravine. The descent, which was tricky under the existing snow and ice conditions, was made with several rappels. Darkness (5:00 P.M.) caught the party still descending. To speed up the descent, Buckland started to glissade down what he thought was a continuous snow slope. He was unroped and had already urged his companions to follow when he unexpectedly slid over a 15-foot high vertical rock wall. He bounced once on the ledge below, then went over another 15-foot wall. He landed on the 30°-35° snow slope below and slid 600 feet (about 300 feet vertically) before being stopped by protruding rocks. Either in the original fall or in pitching to a stop, he suffered a major injury to his chest which incapacitated him both physically and vocally. Following the fall, Stock and Hoyt roped up and descended with ice axe belays. During their descent, Stock slipped on some ice and fell a reported 100 feet. Hoyt stopped the fall. Stock was unhurt, but his ice axe was broken and his crampons, which he was not wearing, were lost.

About an hour or two later, Hoyt and Stock reached Buckland, who was in fair condition but thought he had two broken ribs. (It was later determined that Buckland had suffered two broken ribs, a punctured lung, a bruised liver, internal bleeding and miscellaneous surface bruises.) Hoyt stayed with the injured Buckland while Stock started for the Harvard Mountaineering Club cabin one mile lower in the Ravine where other climbers were known to be. In the darkness Stock became lost and never did find the HMC cabin.

He walked all night through the woods to keep awake. At dawn (6 A.M.), help not having arrived, Hoyt left the injured Buckland and started for the HMC cabin which he reached around 7 A.M. Here he found three HMC climbers, Rick Millikan, Peter Carman and Tom Knott, who immediately set out to help. They reached Buckland at 8:30. With him was Stock who had returned in the daylight. They found Buckland in amazingly good condition considering that he had spent 15 hours out in the open. Using a Stokes litter which is permanently located in Huntington Ravine, these three carried him down the steep slopes to timber- line. Here he was transferred to a runner sled which is also located in the Ravine.

Other climbers and staff from Pinkham Notch began to arrive soon thereafter and helped complete the evacuation. Outside of the injuries received in the fall, Buckland did not suffer any complications due to shock or frostbite. His companions, although very tired, had passed the night without injury. The temperature in the Ravine that night was an unseasonably warm 25°F.

Source: Boyd Everett.

Analysis: The area where the accident occurred is climbed unroped in the summer because it is well broken up even though 45°-50° in average steepness. In the winter ice conditions make it unwise to be unroped here. The decision to glissade unroped over a snow slope whose contours could not be seen because of darkness really needs no further comment.