American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Hypothermia, Frostbite, Weather, Late Start, Failed to Turn Back, New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Huntington Ravine

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

HYPOTHERMIA, FROSTBITE, WEATHER, LATE START, FAILED TO TURN BACK

New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Huntington Ravine

On February 26,1994, Monroe Couper (40) and Erik Lattey (28) left the Harvard Cabin in Huntington Ravine to climb Pinnacle Gully. They did not start the climb until noon, because they had to return to the cabin for their rope, which they discovered they had left behind. They were last seen high on the route at 1700. They did not return to the cabin that night, and a rescue effort was launched, hampered considerably by cold and wind.

The bodies of the two men were found at the edge of the Alpine Garden above Pinnacle Gully on February 28.

Analysis

When the men started their climb, the sky was clear and winds were 30 mph. The wind was gusting to over 90 mph on the summit by the end of the day, and the temperature was -18° F. Rescuers assumed that the climbers were stopped by high winds and darkness.

They were relatively inexperienced and may not have understood how quickly the weather can change on Mount Washington. They may not have known the mountain well enough to know the other descent options. They carried only one rope, which would have made a rappel descent of Pinnacle Gully more difficult—but the best option for them. (Source: George Hurley)

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