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Fall on Ice—Ice Broke Off, Misjudged Conditions, New Hampshire, Frankenstein Cliffs, Cave Route

FALL ON ICE—ICE BROKE OFF, MISJUDGED CONDITIONS

New Hampshire, Frankenstein Cliffs, Cave Route

I reached the top of the headwall on the Cave Route—approximately 50 feet high. The poor quality of the ice precluded me from placing more than one screw on the climb. At this point the belay anchor was approximately seven feet up on an angled slope. This slope was snow covered with no ice, moss, roots, or anything to be found that one could sink an ax into. The front points of my crampons were in the ice on the top section of the headwall. There was a loud crack and that section of ice broke and peeled away from the rock. I fell approximately 20 feet straight down and hit an ice bulge with my feet. My ice screw was positioned just above the bulge. From the impact on the bulge, I was thrown a bit to the right and farther down approximately 20 feet (the point at which the screw held). This prevented a direct ground fall. From there, I skidded approximately ten feet to the base of the climb.

My climbing partner was quickly there, and within ten minutes I was assisted by approximately 15 other climbers. My fractured leg was stabilized; I was kept warm and was carried out on a liter by the other climbers. I suffered a fractured tibia and fibula and some bruised ribs. (Nine weeks later, I am recovering nicely.)

Analysis

[I should exercise] better judgment when examining the quality of the ice. (Source: Rick Gauthier)