AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Fall on Snow, Loss of Control, Involuntary Glissade, New Hampshire, Mt. Washington

FALL ON SNOW, LOSS OF CONTROL, INVOLUNTARY GLISSADE

New Hampshire, Mt. Washington

On March 11, Henry Dones (20) survived a spectacular 500-foot slide down the east slope of Mt. Washington. A Harvard student, he was one of ten members of an M.I.T. Outing Club excursion. “We broke up into groups,” said Dones. “I was with two other climbers, a guy named Ken and a girl named Laurie; I never did learn their last names.” Dones said that he had to quit within 200 feet of the summit because he was exhausted. He found some shelter and waited for his companions to return, which they did half an hour later at 4:30 p.m. Ken checked Dones’ crampons, then they started down the slope. “I took five steps, long ones, and then everything seemed to let go. My crampons didn’t seem to grab hold of anything, and my ice axe didn’t help either.”

The fall started near the top, at what is called The Cone, and ended at the Alpine Gardens. Dones missed several rock outcroppings along the way. His companions covered him with sleeping bags and parkas, and then got help from the A.M.C. A litter evacuation was soon accomplished, and Dones was taken to a nearby hospital. (Source: The Boston Globe, March 14, 1978)

Analysis

Mt. Washington demands mountaineering techniques and knowledge. Beginning climbers need to learn appropriate skills, which in this case means ascending and descending snow slopes, use of crampons, and ice axe self-arrest. It seemed from the details provided that Dones had the idea that crampons and ice axes work independently and had somehow failed to do their intended jobs. (Source: J. Williamsons)