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View Full Version : Avalanche in Huntington Ravine: 3 hurt (Updated Subject line)



DougPaul
01-17-2013, 10:06 PM
Three hurt in an avalanche in Tuckerman Ravine at ~9:30pm this evening. Little other info is available at this point.

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130117/NEWS07/130119220

Doug

sardog1
01-17-2013, 10:12 PM
Oh, do I have a bad feeling about this ...

prino
01-18-2013, 12:08 AM
Mount Washington Observatory are reporting that the avalanche happened in Huntingdon's ravine.

DougPaul
01-18-2013, 12:54 AM
Mount Washington Observatory are reporting that the avalanche happened in Huntingdon's ravine.
URL?

Doug

DougPaul
01-18-2013, 01:01 AM
More info:
http://www.wmur.com/news/nh-news/Several-hurt-in-avalanche-on-Mt-Washington/-/9857858/18179664/-/format/rsss_2.0/-/131gxm3/-/index.html

No meaningful info on where--it is simply described as "Mount Washington's most difficult route"...


A blog post (before the accident) suggests that they might be climbing Pinnacle Gully (in Huntington Ravine, just to the left of Central Gully, which in turn is just to the left of the trail). http://www.wmur.com/news/sports/escape-outside/Blog-Marine-with-one-leg-climbing-Mt-Washington/-/17752420/18170084/-/format/rsss_2.0/-/3mv4toz/-/index.html

Doug

JacobH
01-18-2013, 01:27 AM
https://www.facebook.com/MWObs

"We understand that there has been an avalanche in Huntington Ravine, and that the US Forest Service Snow Rangers have been deployed to assess the area. Mount Washington Observatory has not been called upon in any capacity, so unfortunately we are unable to provide any further information at this time. We join with the rest of the White Mountains community in wishing our best to all those involved."

sardog1
01-18-2013, 06:08 AM
The snow rangers publish a daily avalanche bulletin in season. When today's edition becomes available, possibly this morning depending on the situation, there may be some discussion of this incident. Here's the Avalanche Advisory (http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/category/avalanche-advisory-for-tuckerman-and-huntington-ravines/) link. Right now (0704 on Jan. 18), it's displaying yesterday's version, which discusses conditions at the time.

Brambor
01-18-2013, 07:49 AM
From today's report (http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/2013/01/18/avalanche-advisory-for-friday-january-18-2013/)

One very lucky party was avalanched from the top of Central Gully late in the day as they climbed through this newly deposited soft slab. More details will be posted tonight on our Weekend Update section of our website and on our Search and Rescue page.

JCarter
01-18-2013, 10:03 AM
From the "Ascents of Honor" Facebook page:


UPDATE: Unfortunately our summit bid was unsuccessful. As we approached the top of Huntington Ravine, a slab avalanche broke loose and swept three of our climbers down to the bottom of the ravine. They were injured, but able to slowly make their way to rescuers, who assisted them off the mountain. The other nine climbers were able to descend and walk out of the ravine on their own power. While this is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for, we are thankful that all in our party are safely off the mountain. We extend a heartfelt thanks to the US Forest Service and local Mountain Rescue Service personnel for their assistance, and look forward to sharing more details after we all get some rest. Thank you all for your support throughout this project!

So, this was part of a (ok, pardon my terminology) highly-advertised publicity stunt by people who wouldn't otherwise have tried this climb?

Any possibility that the leaders/organizers felt pressure to go on the announced date even if conditions weren't appropriate? Challenger Syndrome?

"... human triggered avalanches are possible"

"Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience"

DougPaul
01-18-2013, 10:17 AM
Another report also identifying the location as Central Gully (Huntington Ravine): http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130118/NEWS07/130119163

Doug

DougPaul
01-18-2013, 10:49 AM
"... human triggered avalanches are possible"

"Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience"
The report linked in my previous post states that there was an 11-member support team and the party of 12 was roped in teams of 3. There is no info on the skills of the support team--they could have been anything from beginners to certified guides.

That said, 12 people (in 4 teams) is a lot to put in a single gully. The gully isn't very wide and the lower teams are in the line-of-fire for anything knocked off by the upper teams. (Small to medium (eg several liter) chunks of ice are often knocked off by ice climbers.) Teams often wait for those above to completely clear the gully before starting. (None of the accounts say how many teams were in the gully at the time of the accident.)

<speculation>
There is a high probability that one of the climbers triggered the slab avalanche that caught the 3 victims.
</speculation>

Info on Central Gully (rated easy (NEI 1)--depending on the conditions, it is a 45 degree snow climb with up to 1 or 2 pitches of ice.)
http://www.summitpost.org/central-gully/168446
http://www.chauvinguides.com/hunticeguide2.htm

This is a TR of s ski descent, but it has some very nice pics of/in the gully.
http://www.famousinternetskiers.com/trip-reports/07-08/central-gully-huntington-ravine/

Doug

Fisher Cat
01-18-2013, 01:18 PM
From the "Ascents of Honor" Facebook page:



So, this was part of a (ok, pardon my terminology) highly-advertised publicity stunt by people who wouldn't otherwise have tried this climb?

Any possibility that the leaders/organizers felt pressure to go on the announced date even if conditions weren't appropriate? Challenger Syndrome?

"... human triggered avalanches are possible"

"Safe travel in avalanche terrain requires training and experience"

I have to admit I agree with your concerns. Perhaps it is nothing more than a choice of words, and an innocent vocabulary blunder, but the description of this as a 'project' is a bit disconcerting.

JacobH
01-18-2013, 03:55 PM
"Three Injured in Avalanche in Huntington Ravine

On Thursday January 17, a party of 12 was avalanched in Central Gully of Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington. This party was part of an Ascents of Honor program and included Keith Zeier, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a retired Marine sergeant who lost his leg and suffered a brain injury during a 2006 tour of duty in Iraq and is climbing the mountain with a prosthetic leg. Joining Zeier were eleven support staff.
The group was roped as four teams of three climbers. The US Forest Service received the call about the incident at 5:30 pm and responded. The first Ranger arrived on scene at approximately 6:45pm.
Four US Forest Service Snow Rangers, 17 North Conway Mountain Rescue Service volunteers, an Appalachian Mountain Club volunteer and the Harvard Mountain Club cabin caretaker all responded to the incident. One of the teams of three fell approximately 800 feet and sustained non-life threating injuries. The three individuals, Andy Politz, Jonathon Politz, and Zeier, were transported to the Pinkham Notch parking lot via Forest Service Snowcat to three waiting ambulances at 9:30. The nine remaining group members were assisted by rescuers in steep terrain and were also transported to Pinkham by snowcat. Field operations concluded at 11:30pm.

Each year from December 1st through May 31st, the US Forest Service is the lead agency coordinating all search and rescue missions in the Cutler River Drainage on Mount Washington. The success of these search and rescue missions relies heavily on the consistent and professional assistance of local volunteer search and rescue groups. Lead Snow Ranger Chris Joosen commented, “Although an unfortunate incident the rescue operations went very well. There is great teamwork between the US Forest Service Snow Rangers and volunteers who stay trained and ready to assist in search and rescues incidents, in the ravines, and across the Forest. One of those rescued stated they had never seen a team work that well and efficiently together.”

The White Mountain National Forest operates the Mount Washington Avalanche Center to provide daily safety information and search and rescue services to the public. Although beautiful, the mountains contain many hazards for visitors to be aware of which are reported on www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org by the Forest Service.
Avalanches, icefall, weather, undermined snow, and crevasses can all become objective mountain hazards that create a level of risk. Knowing where they are and when they may be worse can help visitors make better decisions for their own safety. For more information visit the Avalanche Center website."

From the Berlin Daily Sun facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Berlin-Daily-Sun

Stash
01-18-2013, 04:41 PM
They just interviewed one of them on the local news. "We're professionals who have climbed all over the world. We knew what we were doing." Ummmm..:confused:

Kevin Rooney
01-18-2013, 05:49 PM
They just interviewed one of them on the local news. "We're professionals who have climbed all over the world. We knew what we were doing." Ummmm..:confused:

They may well have technical skills, but I question their knowledge of local conditions on Mt Washington. What happened to them is typical of conditions after a few inches of dry, fluffy powder with prevailing NW winds. Those winds scour about a mile of terrain above treeline, and deposit it on the leeward side. I was in the mountains on Thursday (Carrigain) and as the cold air moved in, it triggered more snow squalls - again, a source for dry powder. These types of conditions load the upper headwalls of Tucks, Huntingtons, etc. We've seen situations/accidents occur like this in the past; and unfortunately, they'll occur in the future.

Why don't climbers just stay out of the leeward ravines until several days after a storm? I mean - it's not rocket science.

I'm thankful no one was seriously hurt, or worse.

Breeze
01-18-2013, 06:09 PM
They are lucky they'll all get to do this again someday.

They knew what they were getting into, they just didn't bet that Agiocochook would reach out with the fly swatter and slap them yesterday. Well, they did get slapped. They lived to tell the tale, there is a long list of those that have lost that bet.

Notice a few things........ first ..... NH F&G was not involved in any way.

Second.... the USFS brought them down by snowcat... something the F&G doesn't have in place there or anywhere.

Third... I've got a pretty good idea that Chris Joosen and MORE than a few others were on alert for the possibility of trouble. Incident called at 5:30 PM and the first three injured loaded into ambulances @ PNVC @ 9:30. EVERYONE else off the mountain by 11:30 including 23 rescue personnel. Mountain Rescue Services took a cold call on this ??????

I've got bells jingling on one leg.

Breeze

Tim Seaver
01-18-2013, 06:23 PM
From the Snow Ranger report:

"Four rope teams of 3 climbers made their way close to the top of Central Gully, a grade 2 snow and ice climb. The upper team triggered a small avalanche (R2 D1.5) which swept 3 of the 4 teams off their feet and down the 45-50 degree slope. The rope of one of the teams hooked on a rock protruding from the snow, one team was stopped by a really fortunate self-arrest while the third team slid over the ice bulge, fortuitously stopping just before the boulder field. The forth team, which triggered the avalanche near the top of the gully was the only team to avoid a sliding fall. The team that took the longest fall was in the center of the gully while the others were along the rock face on the left. No snow anchors were in place and some, if not all, parties where moving simultaneously while roped up, though it isn’t entirely clear how many elected to use this technique. Rock protection is notoriously difficult to find due to the compact nature of the stone. This type of multi casualty incident has happened here before, as well as in other ranges in similar terrain, and taxes and potentially depletes available rescue resources. Fortunately, the injuries this party sustained were relatively minor compared to those who have taken this fall in the past allowing rescue teams to stabilize the situation and evacuate the party via the Forest Service snow tractor."

Glad everyone made it out OK. Sounds like they were pretty lucky.

Breeze
01-18-2013, 06:54 PM
Tim, I do believe this could ( should????) have been called a " community supported climb", i.e assistance was in place, with a lot of forethought. Certainly not a situation where 12 unknowns arrived unannounced and proceeded to do their thing. This group had a reservation at MWOBS for the Thursday overnight, with down-bound travel via Auto Road, had been ice climbing in Crawford Notch, skiing at Wildcat, had a personal and F2F briefing at Harvard Cabin with USFS snow rangers, and had planned a wrap-up party for tonight ( Friday) at the Shannon Door Pub in Jackson.

What we are seeing in the news media ( unless you hunt for it online, start with WMUR) makes it sound quite different.

Eyes Open Productions. On film.

what was the word used in another thread about rescue issues?? OPTICS????????

Yeah, this is optics.

Breeze

TomD
01-18-2013, 07:32 PM
Here are a couple of links to stories about this climb.
http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2013/01/ap-three-hikers-hurt-avalance-new-hampshire-011813/
http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130117/NEWS07/130119220

DougPaul
01-18-2013, 07:40 PM
So, this was part of a (ok, pardon my terminology) highly-advertised publicity stunt by people who wouldn't otherwise have tried this climb?

Any possibility that the leaders/organizers felt pressure to go on the announced date even if conditions weren't appropriate? Challenger Syndrome?
Summit fever appears in many guises. Sometimes it motivates people to take unjustifiable risks.


At least some of the climbers were very experienced (for instance, Google "Andy Politz") and the reports indicate that they talked to the local snow rangers before going. I presume they judged the risks to be acceptable.

Remember that all technical climbing involves taking calculated risks and any risk carries the possibility of an accident. Most of us only hear about it when an accident occurs.


The accident was caused by a slab avalanche. (I have seen no reports as to whether it was naturally triggered or triggered by one of the climbers.) Slabs often form on leeward slopes and are common on the upper headwalls of both Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines.

Doug

Tim Seaver
01-18-2013, 07:46 PM
For future reference:


Asked whether the climbers should have been scaling the mountain after darkness, Benna said it would depend on their level of expertise and the gear they carried.

"If you're prepared to be in that type of weather and in darkness, it's a hard thing to say 'should' or 'shouldn't have,'" (Tiffany Benna, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service) said. "I don't know how they were outfitted — if they had headlamps and gear to do a nighttime trip."

Raven
01-19-2013, 05:26 AM
Remember that all technical climbing involves taking calculated risks and any risk carries the possibility of an accident. Most of us only hear about it when an accident occurs.
Doug

Good point Doug...and people who make bad decisions are only judged when their decisions lead to accidents. This appears, based on the avalanche forecast, to not have been an unreasonable decision to climb. under a "moderate avalanche danger," natural avalanches are unlikely and human triggered avalanches are possible. Climbing under these conditons is not uncommon for experienced climbers (I am not an experienced technical winter climber).

"Moderate" danger is the second "worse" of 5 levels of avalanche danger.

1-low
2-moderate
3-considerable
4-high
5-extreme

It sounds to me, and none of us have all the details, that this is not a case of negligence or necessarily even really poor decision making. It sounds like it was an unfortunate accident. When details of how the slide was started begin to come out, more light may be shed, but it's not like the danger was "high" or even "considerable" for that matter. Do we expect climbers to only go on days listed as "1" on scale of "5?" This was a "2" day. No one gets judged for climbing on a moderate avalanche danger day when there are no problems.



For future reference:

"If you're prepared to be in that type of weather and in darkness, it's a hard thing to say 'should' or 'shouldn't have,'" (Tiffany Benna, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service) said. "I don't know how they were outfitted if they had headlamps and gear to do a nighttime trip."



Good eye Tim! This quote, although from USFS and not USF&G, could be useful later on in discussing what consitutes negligence.

spider solo
01-19-2013, 07:27 AM
OMG...don't tell me we are going to start 2nd guessing this one ?
How we would have done it so much better.

Let's see a one legged veteran...oh yeah let's jump all over him as well.

Red Oak
01-19-2013, 07:50 AM
OMG...don't tell me we are going to start 2nd guessing this one ?
How we would have done it so much better.

Let's see a one legged veteran...oh yeah let's jump all over him as well.Vfft seems very tame lately on the attack game.This board in the past seems to have been all over the place on the critique thang towards perceived negligent hikers or accident victims.This thread seems to be very supportive of our fellow hikers and climbers in general.I am not quite a climber so will not comment on this incident.Maybe its ok to have a issue with hikers on rescue matters and still be very supportive of a disabled veteran?

DougPaul
01-19-2013, 12:12 PM
Vfft seems very tame lately on the attack game.This board in the past seems to have been all over the place on the critique thang towards perceived negligent hikers or accident victims.This thread seems to be very supportive of our fellow hikers and climbers in general.
<meta comment>
Several of us have actively tried to suppress unjustified "lynch the victim" fests. It seems to have had some lasting effect.
</meta comment>


I am not quite a climber so will not comment on this incident.Maybe its ok to have a issue with hikers on rescue matters and still be very supportive of a disabled veteran?
I used to ice climb and have climbed part way up Central Gully (turned back due to loose ice) and have climbed Pinnacle Gully (just to the left of Central: moderate, NEI 3). Trying to push one's limits is part of mountaineering.

Doug

cushetunk
01-19-2013, 03:56 PM
It sounds to me, and none of us have all the details, that this is not a case of negligence or necessarily even really poor decision making. It sounds like it was an unfortunate accident. When details of how the slide was started begin to come out, more light may be shed, but it's not like the danger was "high" or even "considerable" for that matter. Do we expect climbers to only go on days listed as "1" on scale of "5?" This was a "2" day. No one gets judged for climbing on a moderate avalanche danger day when there are no problems.

Good points, but a moderate (or even a "low") forecast doesn't remove the need for people in avalanche terrain to make their own assessments and decisions.

cushetunk
01-19-2013, 04:00 PM
OMG...don't tell me we are going to start 2nd guessing this one ?

Unlike a banal story about a wrong turn, this one at least has some useful lessons.

Raven
01-19-2013, 04:17 PM
Good points, but a moderate (or even a "low") forecast doesn't remove the need for people in avalanche terrain to make their own assessments and decisions.

Completely agreed.

DougPaul
01-19-2013, 05:17 PM
Good points, but a moderate (or even a "low") forecast doesn't remove the need for people in avalanche terrain to make their own assessments and decisions.
True, however it is not possible to forecast avalanches with 100% accuracy even if you are standing at the trigger point.

And, in this case, avalanche conditions at the top of the gully appear to have been worse than the conditions lower down (see the Conway Daily Sun article). If those at the top of the gully recognized the increased risk, they were left with the choice of retreating down the line of fire or attempting to push through.

Doug

Breeze
01-19-2013, 05:22 PM
Thom Pollard is going to have as much of this on camera as he could possibly have.

I'm not saying whoop whoop Yea or Nay, or being nasty, just saying that this is going to reach a screen near you, in some form or another.

There was intent to approach, there was planning to approach, there were skills addressed and assigned, there were plans, plans, plans in place.

Their plan went south, but their mission may not be in the least compromised by what actually happened. Just adds the usual WTF.

Every one of us pushes the package, every day, in more ways than we know.

Life is what happens when you were making other plans.

Breeze

Kevin Rooney
01-19-2013, 08:16 PM
Here's a link to an article in the Concord Monitor (http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/3918650-95/politz-avalanche-climbers-gully) -

I had an opportunity to talk today with one of the state park service personnel who was on the summit at the time of the avalanche.

From Scott's post above:

1-low
2-moderate
3-considerable
4-high
5-extreme

The way I look at this ratings is to think of them posted on the door of my favorite bar. If there was a sign that said - "Your chances of getting shot inside the bar tonight are moderate" - would you go in?

I'm not suggesting that the climbers in question made the wrong decision - not at all. It's way too complicated. What I am reacting to is that somehow, using the above rating, that a 2 is an acceptable level of risk. It may be to some, but not others (myself included).

DougPaul
01-19-2013, 10:41 PM
2-moderate

It may be worth noting that "moderate" is defined as:


Natural avalanches unlikely; human-triggered avalanches possible.

Ref: http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/avalanche-safety/5-scale-danger-scale/

Conditions at the top of the ravine appear to have gotten worse during the day. (Ref: Conway Daily Sun article). It is possible that the local rating would have been higher by the time the first party reached the release zone, had it been rechecked by the snow rangers.

IMO, it is highly likely that the avalanche was triggered by the climbers themselves.


A possible additional factor:
Some with experience in higher ranges may also underestimate the Whites. While the highest peak is only a measly 6288 ft, the weather and snow conditions on the higher peaks can be similar to those of much higher mountains. A meteorologist friend used to compare the base-to-summit differences in the weather of Mt Washington (6288 ft) and Pikes Peak (14,110 ft)--the difference was significantly greater for Mt Washington.

Doug

Maineman
01-20-2013, 12:26 AM
I found it curious that according to the report, the team had left the cabin at 8:30 and the climb began at 12:30. Even with 12 people and cameras etc, that's quite a long time.

The report also stated that the incident occured at 4:30pm. Although I see no problem with a planned headlamp descent (I've soloed Central by the full moon without ever turning on my headlamp) Lots of stuff can

Mike P.
01-20-2013, 10:37 AM
I believe Thom's a local guy, or at least has family here. As DP showed, natural avalanches unlikely, man made possible, its's probably the conditions that are prevalent most days in Tucks, especialy if any snow has fallen the past day or two. (Actually if any decent amount has fallen, it's probably higher)

Thom was also one of camera men on the Mallory - Irvine search back in 1999 that found the climbers and as mentioned has climbed all over world. I suspect some of the SAR mountain volunteers & guides know him.

Other folks on the motivational speaking tour with Washington mishaps, had referred to their experience as "major" peaks in CO and a highpoint of two. Some might consider Elbert & Longs the only two major peaks in CO.

Breeze
01-20-2013, 11:22 AM
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eyes-Open-Productions-Thom-Pollard/262496097096488?group_id=0

Thom is local, Jackson, and well known.

Breeze

slevasse
01-20-2013, 02:56 PM
I found it curious that according to the report, the team had left the cabin at 8:30 and the climb began at 12:30. Even with 12 people and cameras etc, that's quite a long time.

The report also stated that the incident occured at 4:30pm. Although I see no problem with a planned headlamp descent (I've soloed Central by the full moon without ever turning on my headlamp) Lots of stuff can

I believe the plan was for them to spend the night at the observatory, so no decent that day would have been necessary.

Maineman
01-20-2013, 09:33 PM
I believe the plan was for them to spend the night at the observatory, so no decent that day would have been necessary.

Ahh - that makes sense. Very glad everyone survived, what a scary ride that must have been.

slevasse
01-21-2013, 11:31 AM
I can't remember how the moderators react to posting links to other sites but here is a link to Neclimbs where this is also being discussed. A few of the people are very knowledgeable on the subject and has some pretty good information and break down of what they think went wrong from the information provided.

http://www.neclimbs.com/SMF_2/index.php?topic=7487.0

bikehikeskifish
01-21-2013, 12:06 PM
Links to other sites with relevant / topical information are fine. What is frowned upon is links for your own personal gain or anything that could be considered OT or spam. In fact we would rather you posted links then copied stories - thus violating copyright law.

Tim

B the Hiker
01-21-2013, 02:10 PM
Some thoughts, pulling together some threads from what others have written at times. I think of this from the perspective of an AMC leader. What are the conditions? Who are the participants? What time will we finish, and what will the conditions be like then?

1) Despite the fact that whoever was in charge of the operation clearly understood the slow speeds at the party would travel, they left the Harvard high cabin at 8:30 in the morning. Go heavens! At that speed, they should have been out at 5:30am. If they had, they would have been in the spot of the avalanche at 1:30 in afternoon--not that they knew there would be an avalanche, but rather, they would have been in the middle of the climb when the sun was high.

2) But they didn't. They left very late. One has to ask, given it took them four hours to get to the base of Central, didn't anyone suggest they were moving too slowly?

3) The avalanche hazard was what it was, and as JCarter posted earlier, a Moderate danger level, given the size of their party should have set off some bells in someone's head. Look, they flew in from wherever. They hired an expensive cinematographer. They blogged about it in advance. They reserved space at the Observatory. The weather wasn't going to change the day after. Clearly, somebody felt under a lot of pressure to attempt that trip, knowing the conditions were simply terrible, and they had someone who was moving very slowly.

4) Let's assume they completed the climb. That was the easy part! Because on that day, the forecast was for negative temperatures and winds up to seventy miles per hour. Clearly those involved in leading the party, not to mention the staff at the Observatory, knew what that party was in for as they attempted the climb.
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-ZcYDPHzODv0/UP2W3D1CxyI/AAAAAAAAAQ4/toiRVSirHLo/s800/WeatherForecast.jpg

This forecast was for Monday, and they were climbing Friday, but it wasn't much different that day.

Somebody clearly had to have been asking themselves if a one-legged climber who took four hours just to get to the base of Central Gully from Harvard High Cabin could have made it to the Observatory in very high winds, sub zero temperatures, and in the dark!

This is the story of a bunch of people who should have known better. They had, after all, professional guides, a North Conway based cinematographer, and were in contact with the Observatory staff, who knew their plan.

That Friday was my birthday, and I had planned a three-day two-night Presi Traverse, and we bagged it because conditions were terrible from Friday through Monday.

I believe they were negligent, virtually from start to finish. You have to respect the Whites and understand that there are simply days when the weather will not cooperate.


Brian

nartreb
01-21-2013, 03:13 PM
The day or two after an incident is usually not a good time to be commenting on the decisions that went into it. Lots of important facts aren't usually known right away.

I'm particularly perplexed by the idea that it took four hours to get from Harvard Cabin to the base of the gully. Maybe they meant the AMC's "Harvard cabin"??

However, since Thom Pollard has gone ahead and commented, I'll point out a few phrases he may want to reconsider:


Snow continued to fall throughout the afternoon. And although our route was on the lee side, high winds overhead deposited more snow up high, near the terminus of the route. The accumulation of these conditions could not be predicted before climb. By the time we met those conditions, a return descent would have been as dangerous as continuing upward, and therefore out of the question.

Breeze
01-21-2013, 04:02 PM
Another paragraph from Thom's FB

"
Lastly, keep an eye out for my film. It's going to be amazing, and millions of people will one day learn of Keith and what a true hero he is. As Victoria said yesterday, all the work and effort we poured into the media after our avalanche helped keep the dream of an American hero alive. "

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151401062429238&set=a.35844184237.42471.687929237&type=1


Breeze

spider solo
01-21-2013, 04:33 PM
"Several of us have actively tried to suppress unjustified "lynch the victim" fests. It seems to have had some lasting effect."

Oh, I hadn't noticed.

mtnpa
01-22-2013, 09:19 AM
...Notice a few things........ first ..... NH F&G was not involved in any way.

Second.... the USFS brought them down by snowcat... something the F&G doesn't have in place there or anywhere.

Third... I've got a pretty good idea that Chris Joosen and MORE than a few others were on alert for the possibility of trouble. Incident called at 5:30 PM and the first three injured loaded into ambulances @ PNVC @ 9:30. EVERYONE else off the mountain by 11:30 including 23 rescue personnel. Mountain Rescue Services took a cold call on this ??????

I've got bells jingling on one leg.

Breeze

USFS coordinates rescues in Cuttler River Drainage from December 1 through May 31. NHF&G handles all others.

Snowcat would not be practical for most situations. F&G does use snowmachines and ATV's.

SAR volunteers try to be on the scene within an hour of a callout.

MRS rocks :cool:

Daniel Eagan
01-22-2013, 09:58 AM
Report is in:

http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/

I'm getting an "Error 404 - Not Found" for that link.

Not your fault, there's a link on this page, 2012-2013 Summaries: 01-17-2013 Avalanche in Central Gully (http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/) that also leads to a 404 Error.

JCarter
01-22-2013, 10:04 AM
Try this one:

http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/

JCarter
01-22-2013, 10:07 AM
www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/


Despite this discussion and warnings about increasing avalanche danger through the day and that Moderate avalanche danger means that “human triggered avalanches are possible,” the group decided to stick with their plan.

Daniel Eagan
01-22-2013, 10:25 AM
Try this one:

http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/

Thanks this is fascinating, I appreciate it.

JacobH
01-22-2013, 11:36 AM
www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/

I prefer this summary:


...this is clearly a complex situation where a lot decisions needed to be made as the day unfolded. We believe that this was an avoidable accident that fortunately resulted in very minor injuries considering the magnitude of the incident. We have the benefit of hindsight and were not involved in the group’s decision making process, so it’s impossible to know all the factors and how they were considered. Again, the intent of this analysis is not to place blame, but to allow others to learn from the experiences of their fellow climbers. We wish group members the best in their admirable cause and in their future mountaineering endeavors. We look forward to seeing them again in the hills pursuing climbs with new lessons learned under their belt.

TEO
01-22-2013, 01:47 PM
It's curious that when an out-of-stater makes mistakes and requires a search-and-rescue, the Union Leader vultures are quick to descend, but when NH residents and a vet make mistakes not a word is said. If anyone should be pilloried online it's this crew. I would also be surprised if these people are fined for negligence, in spite of what would appear to be a multitude of negligence, based on precedent previously set.

Breeze
01-22-2013, 05:02 PM
Teo, they cannot be fined by the state of NH because NH F&G had nothing to do with their rescue. This rescue was USFS called and executed with support of some exceptional volunteers.

The climbers ARE being pilloried across multiple boards....... many of those fora have been linked in this thread. Also see Alpine Zone and T4T. It's hard not to find commentary about this incident.

No one is getting a pass here. The actual film footage of the incident is of much greater theatrical value than if they had moseyed SAFELY on up to MWOBS full of shits, grins and High Fives, after dark, for dinner , dessert, and warm beds waiting for them before their planned RIDE down.

Many words have been said, some in haste and some ( of my own)with with regret, and more words held in abeyance.

These 12 folks exceeded ALL OF their combined lucky numbers for one day. They aren't getting a pass anywhere I'm reading.


There is going to be an adventure feature film of this........ will you pay to watch ?

Breeze

Raven
01-23-2013, 03:59 PM
www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/search-rescue/2012-2013-summaries/01-17-2013-avalanche-accident-in-central-gully/

Wow - that is a REALLY interesting summary and analysis. Thanks for posting. I learned quite a bit by reading that.

SherpaWill
01-23-2013, 04:18 PM
One thing I am curious about. Was anyone in their party traveling with avalanche transceivers and/or probes?

SherpaWill
01-23-2013, 05:08 PM
" We believe that the overall confidence in the leader’s ability and experience may have led to some group members withholding from the entire group avalanche concerns they may have had. This confidence was stated by one group member as a reason for not carrying avalanche rescue gear (i.e. beacons, shovels, and probes)."

Thank you. Reading that sent a chill down my spine.

DougPaul
01-23-2013, 05:16 PM
One thing I am curious about. Was anyone in their party traveling with avalanche transceivers and/or probes?
I don't know about this party specifically, but ice climbers in Huntington often don't carry transceivers and probes. Most avalanche fatalities in Huntington are due to climbers hitting rocks or impacts while falling rather than burial--thus transceivers and probes would not help very often. No one was buried in this incident so transceivers and probes would not have changed the outcome.

I don't know the statistics, but I suspect that burial is more of an issue in Tuckerman Ravine.

As for East vs West, I think this is more an issue of terrain and snow depths in the collection and running zones than E-W location. (The gullies in Huntington are narrow with relatively small collection zones and empty out onto a broad valley floor which may have exposed rocks. Tuckerman has larger collection zones and thus an avalanche may involve more snow.)

Excess gear weight is a bigger issue in climbing than it is in hiking.

Doug

SherpaWill
01-23-2013, 06:38 PM
I guess that was my bigger question. If that type of equipment was commonly carried in the ravines.

nartreb
01-23-2013, 10:23 PM
A couple of folks who post here have climbed multiple Huntington gullies in a day, but I think Jake's guide friend is being a bit misleading. Four hours car to car is a lot faster than I usually travel in the winter, though I'm sure it's feasible if you're a professional guide on your day off (in great shape, know the route, travelling extremely light, willing to solo). First you've got to slog up from the car to the ravine, something like three miles uphill. Normal parties will be carrying emergency bivy gear, a rope, and a couple of ice screws and snow pickets, which aren't light. I'd budget almost two hours right there (obviously your guide friend is a lot faster), and an hour to walk down that same trail after the climbing is done, which leaves me one hour for climbing AND descent? Not gonna happen. Parties frequently camp at Harvard Cabin (at the base of the ravine), start as soon as they get the weather report (seven AM), and some still come back in the dark (though usually because they got lost or had some other misadventure).

Experienced ice climbers can easily solo the whole thing, but such folks don't usually bother with Central Gully unless they're bringing up a beginner. In the usual case, you'll "pitch it out" at least over the lower ice bulge: use a rope and place screws or other anchors in case of a fall, and go one at a time. The bigger the party, the slower you're going to be.

A common theme in Western accident reports (e.g. Mt Hood) is parties using rope but no anchors. Climbers frequently overestimate their ability to self-arrest. One person trips and the whole team goes for a ride. Worse, one rope team slides into another party's rope, starting a chain reaction... The recent incident in Central Gully is interesting in that the use of ropes (rather than unroping for the upper part, as is commonly done) most likely saved a few lives, even without anchors. (Unroped, some of the members might never have arrested on their own. At the very least, three climbers stopped when their rope snagged a rock.)

Probes and beacons aren't hugely useful unless a) rescuers know how to use them, b) rescuers can reach the victims within minutes. A skier who witnesses an avalanche that catches his buddy has a chance to ski down and find the buddy alive, but an ice climber usually can't get down fast enough.

DougPaul
01-23-2013, 10:23 PM
I would guess not much more than a day pack and climbing gear. It is only WI 1 which is very easy climbing wise. I believe it is probably solo'd quite often by skilled climbers in good conditions. Apparently many of the gullys are even skied down by guys with big time skills when the snow is good.

Edit: just talked to a rock/ice guide friend of mine.. he said he'd bring ice tools,crampons and a bottle of water and be done in 3hr. Aka.. taking that long was completely unconventional and using ropes for most of it is not normal.. he says 4 hr car to car or 6 if you go to the summit too. so in normal circumstances they should have been done by noon-1pm at the top. He also says traveling in rope teams like that is a no-no unless you're on a glacier..

lack of avy gear is not really a major flag for me.. The attitude towards "going anyway" "going forward instead of retreating" etc is far worse in my book. Better to avoid an accident than have to deal with one. Everest 96 comes to mind...
When I climbed in Huntington (typically a full day car to car for me), I carried a 2000 cu in daypack containing food, water, a down jacket, spare hand insulation, spare head insulation, headlamp, map, compass, etc.* (I carried significantly more safety gear when hiking.) Plus, of course, the climbing gear: 3 tools (ice axes, north wall hammers, and/or ice hammers), rope, harness, ice screws, maybe a few rock pieces, slings, carabiners, rigid crampons, helmet, etc. So it was a pretty good load even without the avy gear. (The rope alone weighed ~8lbs.)

* When climbing close to the road (eg at Frankenstein), it was common practice to leave one's pack at the bottom of the climb. I have read recently that rodents have learned to raid the packs, so people may stop doing this.

Agreed--4 teams in a single gully significantly increases the risks. Anything dropped or knocked down by a higher team can hit a lower team. They also climbed (and rappelled on the descent) only one person at a time through the belayed section (the ice bulge)--with 12 people this consumed a huge amount of time, both up and down. Several independent simultaneous climbers would have been much faster if it had been possible**. (Solo or independent 2-man ropes would be fastest.)

** I don't know if conditions allowed this.

Doug

DougPaul
01-23-2013, 10:39 PM
A common theme in Western accident reports (e.g. Mt Hood) is parties using rope but no anchors. Climbers frequently overestimate their ability to self-arrest. One person trips and the whole team goes for a ride. Worse, one rope team slides into another party's rope, starting a chain reaction... The recent incident in Central Gully is interesting in that the use of ropes (rather than unroping for the upper part, as is commonly done) most likely saved a few lives, even without anchors. (Unroped, some of the members might never have arrested on their own. At the very least, three climbers stopped when their rope snagged a rock.)
Whether to simul-climb (unbelayed) while roped or to unrope is always a judgement call. If all are experienced, unroping may be better, but this party had a number of inexperienced climbers plus a one-legged climber. I suspect that the ropes were made up with at least one experienced climber per rope so that there would be at least one self-arrest per rope in case of a fall. And indeed, one falling rope was reported to have been stopped by one member's self arrest.


Probes and beacons aren't hugely useful unless a) rescuers know how to use them, b) rescuers can reach the victims within minutes. A skier who witnesses an avalanche that catches his buddy has a chance to ski down and find the buddy alive, but an ice climber usually can't get down fast enough.
Skiers also try to ski one at a time from safe spot to safe spot to minimize the chance that more than one gets caught in an avalanche. Thus there are likely to be unharmed rescuers near at hand. Roped climbers are less able to use this strategy. (Note also that belays can be ripped out by avalanches.

Doug

DougPaul
01-23-2013, 11:23 PM
Yea.. if you are going to be roped in vertical terrain you should be using a belay.
That is the theory, but belayed climbing is slower than simul-climbing (with or without running belays). And if the route changes between needing and not needing belays, the time to rope and unrope adds up. Time can be a critical factor, particularly on longer climbs.


I don't know the details about the speed.. i still haven't even hiked Huntingtons in the summer (is it warm yet?) but i'm guessing in winter you could do some easy glissading on the way down once you got passed the ice section. either way it all depends on the fitness of the people involved and the conditions.
I don't know as I would call it easy glissading... The runout is a field of large rocks--if they aren't covered, you end up in them if you fall.

Remember that there had just been a very warm spell resulting in an ice crust on all of the snow (with new [slab...] snow in some places).

FWIW, I once saw a novice slide low down in the ravine and injure (break?) his ankle on one of the rocks. He was still far below the actual technical climbs... (He didn't have his crampons on yet and slid on a hard snow surface.)

Doug

skiguy
01-24-2013, 08:32 AM
http://www.conwaydailysun.com/index.php/newsx/local-news/94873-avalanche-012213

hikerbrian
01-24-2013, 09:30 AM
nartreb and Doug, thanks for your insightful commentary and analysis. Expected timelines and climbing difficulty provide a much more accurate frame for this discussion.

As has been mentioned several times, I believe the presence of the film crew and related expectations caused the group to take unnecessary risks. This actually causes me to reconsider other climbing films I have seen - adversity makes for a much more interesting film than unobstructed success. This sentiment was clearly expressed by one of the crew prior to the climb. I can imagine that as darkness was falling, temperatures dropping, snow continuing, climb taking much longer than expected, etc., that the people in charge of making this film were psyched - they wanted to ride right on the knife's edge of challenge and disaster.

At least a few members of this group are much more experienced climbers than me, so I'll defer to the analysis of the MW climbing rangers. But there is no question, these people were EXTREMELY lucky.

Edited to add: I respect and appreciate the comments that Thom Pollard makes in the Conway Daily Sun article linked above.

DougPaul
01-24-2013, 11:25 AM
As has been mentioned several times, I believe the presence of the film crew and related expectations caused the group to take unnecessary risks. This actually causes me to reconsider other climbing films I have seen - adversity makes for a much more interesting film than unobstructed success. This sentiment was clearly expressed by one of the crew prior to the climb. I can imagine that as darkness was falling, temperatures dropping, snow continuing, climb taking much longer than expected, etc., that the people in charge of making this film were psyched - they wanted to ride right on the knife's edge of challenge and disaster.
IMO, there is little doubt that the presence of a film crew gave them additional incentive to climb that day. But it is bigger than that--they had gone through a lot of effort to collect a large team and schedule linked events (eg the stay at the summit). And it was supporting a cause. There are also social factors such as no one wants to be the first to suggest that they turn back. (There is a lot of discussion of such factors in the ski avalanche accident literature.)

As for the desire to climb on the edge, I'm not so sure. They clearly knew of the hazard as they tried to avoid the freshly deposited snow and the lower teams tried to stay out of the potential avalanche path. It might make a better film (particularly for non-climbers), but they were risking their lives and would be open to criticism particularly for taking novices up in such conditions. People like to succeed at difficult tasks (ie achieve something), but even if they succeed without incident may decide that they had taken foolish risks (and should be more careful in the future).

Their initial plans had been to climb Odell Gully but they changed to Central due to the avalanche risk forecast. (Odell has a reputation for avalanches.)


At least a few members of this group are much more experienced climbers than me, so I'll defer to the analysis of the MW climbing rangers. But there is no question, these people were EXTREMELY lucky.
The MW climbing ranger report looks well written to me. Luck--both good and bad--is a factor in many accidents.

Doug

skiguy
01-24-2013, 11:49 AM
IMO, there is little doubt that the presence of a film crew gave them additional incentive to climb that day. But it is bigger than that--they had gone through a lot of effort to collect a large team and schedule linked events (eg the stay at the summit). And it was supporting a cause. There are also social factors such as no one wants to be the first to suggest that they turn back. (There is a lot of discussion of such factors in the ski avalanche accident literature.)

Doug

"We are well aware that people are going to have issues with how that day went down," Pollard said. Both he and Politz have climbed in major ranges around the world, and in retrospect they recognize missteps. "We were so focused," he said, on what was directly in front of the team, that they missed big picture questions.
Now, Pollard said, the movie that was originally going to be about Zeier's ascent will take a hard look at the team's decisions. "We're going to answer these questions," he said, and interview people involved in the rescue. "If they want to say something negative it won't be edited out."

I am glad that these folks are OK. I also admire Mr. Pollard for saying the above. IMO it takes a humble and brave person to do so. Hopefully we will see success in the future for the causes that were originally intended.

Sunshine Chris
01-26-2013, 08:59 AM
Wow - that is a REALLY interesting summary and analysis. Thanks for posting. I learned quite a bit by reading that.

me too thanks for the link- http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchec...central-gully/

Raven
02-26-2013, 07:25 AM
And here it is.....came to my inbox this morning.

"Dear Scott,

Mount Washington Observatory invites you to join us on Thursday, April 11 in downtown Boston for an inspirational evening with veteran Reconnaissance Marine Keith Zeier.

Hear the incredible story of Zeier’s survival from a deadly IED explosion in Iraq, and the slow process of healing that inspired him to help fellow wounded veterans through the Ascents of Honor project.

See exclusive images and video from the January 2013 Ascents of Honor Mount Washington summit attempt, and be inspired by the infallible determination of an American soldier who refuses to let tragedy end his mission to help fellow veterans.

When:
Thursday, April 11, 2013
6:00 - 8:30pm
Where:
The Suites at WilmerHale
60 State Street, Boston, MA 02109"