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Avalanche, New Hampshire, Mt. Washington

AVALANCHE

New Hampshire, Mt. Washington

Early in the afternoon of March 8, 1980, three climbers were caught in an avalanche near the top of Odell’s Gully in Huntington Ravine. The leader, Dave Gustafson (an experienced technical ice climber), was swept from his stance by a mass of heavy fresh snow. Gustafson’s nearly 300-foot fall was held by his belayer Trey Barry. Amazingly, Gustafson sustained only a broken hand and a puncture of the left thigh. In attempting to stop the fall, the belayer bruised his arm and sprained his ankle badly. Ron Granbery, who had been stationed at the belay stance with Barry, sustained no injuries.

Gustafson was able to lead the descent safely with serious injuries and minimal gear (some was lost during the avalanche) and under conditions of impending darkness and heavy snowfall. Lacking ice screws, Gustafson pounded ice hammers into cracks in the rock to provide anchors on the final rappels. Although aided by the Harvard Mountaineering Club caretaker, volunteers, and United States Forest Service and AMC personnel, this party was fully capable of self-rescue. (Source: from a report by Jack Corbin, Assistant Manager, Pinkham Notch Camp)