Last tracks and a rescue!

2006-07-08 09:23:36.000 – Dan Huber,  Summit Intern

The green ravine with snow below…

While every day on the summit of Mount Washington is unusual, the past thirty-six hours have been particularly so. Late Thursday afternoon, Jim descended towards Tuckerman Ravine to take some flower pictures. Christy, John and I decided to accompany him. I had skis on my back and a goal in mind, to ski my first July turns. Descending the summit cone, I quickly realized that steep down hiking on boulders with skis is more unpleasant than I thought it could be. However, my knees received their pounding with mute indifference as we strolled into the lawn above Tucks. It was here that Jim abandoned convoy citing abundant dramatic flora.

Alas, our party now numbered three as we continued on to the rim of Tuckerman Ravine. It was here that I promptly lost my remaining two cohorts as they seemed to lose interest in continuing as the trail was steep and no snow was visible. I continued, not catching site of the patch until farther down the trail. I was dismayed to see the patch was farther down than I had hoped, not far from lunch rocks. I made it down without bodily harm but with a few dings on the skis and unpacked and prepared for a “run”. Turns out the patch was about 25-30 feet long. Recently it had been longer, but three unskiable chunks had broken off, greatly reducing the length. I did manage to take three runs, going across the chunk at every possible angle. The snow lump was around 40-45 degrees and possessed a mean double fall line. The bottom was quite icy which made stopping an adventure. Taking the skis off was not really an option at the bottom so I sidestepped to ascend the slope. A bit before 6:00 pm I packed up and ascended the slope, met up with everyone else and continued to the summit. The hike up was pleasant and we even arrived 15 minutes early for dinner at 7.

Feeling quite pleased with myself the next day, I was intent on resting my legs and enjoying the fine weather we have encountered the last few days. However, my R&R did not last long as I got a phone call around noon that help was needed on a rescue in the Great Gulf. A woman had fallen off a ledge on the Gulfside trail. I set out to help, meeting up with Bill from state parks on the way. When we arrived, Garth from the State Park and the woman’s husband had down-climbed and were already tending to her. She seemed to be in fairly good shape considering the fall she had taken, but did presumably a few breaks in her arm/shoulder. While rigging up to lower the backboard, we realized we might need more rope for the extraction, so I radioed Christy to hike down with a 50lb backpack full of rope. (She thanked me later by requesting that I carry it back up.) Several EMT’s from the valley and a rescue squad equipped with climbing gear, arrived on the scene via the Cog Railway. Fortunately, the rail was within 100 feet of the fall site so the victim was evacuated from the mountain quickly. The rescue happened so smoothly in fact that the victim was taken down the mountain on the same train as the team came up.

Things have quieted down overnight but you never know what adventure is around the corner.


Dan Huber,  Summit Intern

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