American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Fall on Snow/Ice, Inadequate Equipment—Ice Ax on Pack Instead of in Hands, Darkness, New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008


New Hampshire, Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine

On March 31, a climber injured his leg after falling down Tuckerman Ravine. He was with two friends. The three of them climbed Central Gully, hiked across the Alpine Garden, and began descending into Tuckerman Ravine at dark. He was wearing crampons at the time of the fall, but his ice ax was secured to his pack. He said he was not using it because by the time he realized he needed it, the terrain was too steep to take his pack off.

During the descent, he lost his footing and fell between 400 and 600 feet to the floor of the Ravine, injuring his leg during the fall. One friend went to Hermit Lake to get help while the other assisted his friend to the rescue cache near the bottom of the Ravine. Snow Rangers, personnel from the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol and the AMC, and overnight guests staying at Hermit Lake responded to help the patient. The patient’s leg was splinted and he was carried down to Hermit Lake, which involved one 300-foot rope lower. At Hermit Lake, the patient was reassessed and then transported to Pinkham Notch via snowmobile. This incident took 15 people 3.5 hours to complete.


If this person had had his ice ax out during the fall, he could have arrested himself and prevented this accident. We often see people descending Tuckerman Ravine in icy conditions without the proper equipment, particularly in the spring. An ice ax and the ability to use it properly are critical for safe travel in steep terrain. The combination of the ax and the knowledge of its use provide a reliable means of stopping oneself on steep snow. (Edited from a report found on the Tuckerman Ravine website)

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