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Fall on Ice — Unable to Self-Arrest, New Hampshire, Huntington Ravine, Central Gully

FALL ON ICE - UNABLE TO SELF-ARREST

New Hampshire, Huntington Ravine, Central Gully

Approximately 15 minutes after being notified of the incident described above, Snow Rangers learned of a second incident unfolding in Huntington Ravine. A mountaineer had fallen from somewhere between the top of the Fan and the ice bulge in Central Gully. He slid approximately 1,000 feet through icy talus before coming to rest near the base of Huntington Ravine. He suffered numerous significant injuries, including a mid-shaft femur fracture. Bystanders began to provide care while assistance was sought out. By the time the Snow Rangers arrived, the victim was conscious and in severe pain. He was splinted and packaged into a litter, which was belayed one rope length to flat ground at the base of the Ravine, due to the icy surface. The USFS snowcat transported the victim to a waiting ambulance at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.

Analysis

These two incidents have one strong central theme—that sliding falls on icy surfaces are very difficult to stop. In these cases, the crust was formed three days prior to the incidents with a warm, wet day followed by a sharp drop in temperature. Surfaces immediately became incredibly hard and slick and stayed that way through the Saturday. The morning’s Avalanche Advisory stated, “The main safety concern today is the potential for long sliding falls due to the hard icy snow conditions… Bring your crampons, ice ax, and mountaineering experience with you today so you can get around in steep terrain and successfully self-arrest if you slip. If you don’t have this equipment and the ability to use it you should stick to low angled terrain.” One lesson we can all take home from these incidents is the importance of practicing your skills in all conditions and avoiding steep terrain on days when the difficulty of the conditions exceeds your ability to self-arrest. Many thanks go out to the numerous bystanders and volunteers who helped out on these incidents. (Source for the above three incidents: www.tuckerman. org and Justin Preisendorfer, Snow Ranger/Backcountry & Wilderness Supervisor)