American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall/Slip on Ice, Bad Weather—New Hampshire, Mt. Washington, Huntington Ravine

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1977

FALL/SLIP ON ICE, BAD WEATHER—New Hampshire, Mt. Washington, Huntington Ravine. Rick Welch (21) had soloed Pinnacle and was descending. He wanted to descend Lions Head to Tuck Trail but wind was so strong he decided to descend Central Gully. One-third of the way down Central, just as he was going to place an ice screw, a gust of wind took him off his feet. He was in a controlled self-arrest until he hit an ice bulge. The ice axe was ripped from his hands and he fell over the bulge, breaking his legs. He decided to fall head first to prevent further injury to lower extremities. Fortunately he had a helmet (an Ultimate by trade name) and sustained only contusions of the upper extremities in the rest of the fall. He fell 500 to 600 feet and landed in a boulder patch half way down the fan. I helped him from the exposed boulder patch to a more protected area and collected his gear. We belayed three times to reach the bottom of the fan where we met the rest of the litter party, and littered him to the Wildcat Snowcat at the junction of Tuck Trail and Huntington Fire Trail and evacuated by cat. On the way down Don Dercole of USFS sustained a broken leg in a fall on ice in the Tuck Trail.

It is fortunate that no one else was injured by the icy conditions and that no one was spiked with crampons, as many were worn in the evacuation and descent. It was also fortunate that Welch had the foresight to fall head first to prevent cartwheeling, which seems to cause much more severe injuries. (Source: Chuck Boyd, AMC)

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