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

Fall Through Snow—Spruce Trap, Off Route, Inadequate Equipment—Compass, New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Raymond Cataract

FALL THROUGH SNOW—SPRUCE TRAP, OFF ROUTE, INADEQUATE EQUIPMENT—COMPASS

New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Raymond Cataract

On January 9, Kevin Rogers (33) and Mark Landry (30) of Portland, ME, made a successful ascent of Pinnacle Gully Around 1300 they started their descent from the Alpine Garden, intending to use the Escape Hatch, a snow gully which climbers sometimes use as a way back to the floor of Huntington Ravine.

They failed to find the top of the Escape Hatch and instead continued down the trailless Raymond Cataract, the shallow gully between the major ravines. About 1430, Rogers fell into a spruce trap and twisted his left knee, tearing the meniscus (cartilage). He could not move his knee. Landry went for help, leaving Rogers about 1600. Landry reached the Harvard Cabin about 1700, but found no one there. There was no radio because it had been removed the previous day for repairs. He continued on to the AMC Pinkham Notch Camp and reported the accident.

While other rescuers were being assembled, Chris Joosen, the caretaker at the time at Hermit Lake, went up the Lion Head Trail and traversed across to a point high in Raymond Cataract. The temperature by this time (about 1945) was 0° F and the wind was about 35 mph. Joosen stayed in the middle of the Cataract as he descended until he found Rogers. Because Rogers and Landry were well equipped with warm clothes and food and water, Rogers was doing very well in spite of his long wait in cold conditions. He was sitting on the ropes and backpacks to insulate himself from the snow, and he was wearing extra clothing including a down parka. Joosen had with him a Norwegian hypothermia heater which he put around Rogers. After about half an hour, the two decided to try to traverse toward Lion Head. They were helped by Harvard hutkeeper, Mikko Immonen, who had joined them.

At Lion Head, these three were met by the main group of rescuers. They used ropes and a litter to transport Rogers to the Tuckerman Trail where Brad Ray, the USFS Snow Ranger, was waiting with a snowcat. They reached the AMC camp shortly after midnight.

Analysis

Rogers and Landry were well prepared and they completed their climb early enough in the day. Their mistakes were in route finding on the descent: first in not finding the top of the Escape Hatch, and secondly in continuing down Raymond Cataract. Once they realized that they had missed the Escape Hatch, they probably should have contoured around the top of Raymond Cataract to reach the Lion Head Trail. Going down the Cataract is usually a bad idea because of unconsolidated snow and the danger of falling into water under the snow.

Most ice climbers descend from routes in Huntington Ravine by following the Alpine Garden Trail south to join the Lion Head Trail where it runs east along the upper edge of Tuckerman Ravine. All of this route is marked by large cairns. If visibility is so poor that the cairns cannot be found, climbers can follow a compass reading southward— 190°—from the top of Pinnacle or Central Gullies until they reach Tuckerman Ravine and the Lion Head Trail.

Ice climbers who want to descend more directly to the floor of Huntington Ravine should spend time during good weather exploring the terrain, and they should know the current snow conditions on the planned descent route. The Escape Hatch and the more technical descent which crosses the top of Odells Gully and then goes down a ramp to South Gully can be dangerous because of veiy hard ice or because of avalanche conditions. When the weather turns severe while climbers are on an ice route, it is usually safest to rappel the route. (Source: George Hurley)