GORHAM — A 63-year-old Brookline, Mass., man was reported missing to U.S. Forest Service personnel at 11:00 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 20, when he failed to return from a summit hike. Avalanche danger on Saturday was listed as moderate with the possibility of an increase in danger to considerable overnight.
Mount Washington Valley Ski Patrol found him on Sunday at approximately 2:45 a.m. on a steep, icy slope above an area known as Lunch Rocks in Tuckerman Ravine.
The subject of the search had taken a long, sliding fall down Right Gully after taking a wrong turn off Lion Head Trail. The microspikes he wore on his mountaineering boots didn’t provide adequate traction during his descent, and he suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the fall.
However, he was able to walk out assisted by rescuers from the Mountain Rescue Service, Androscoggin Valley Search & Rescue, Mount Washington Valley Ski Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and Appalachian Mountain Club.
Temperatures on the summit were -6 degrees with northwest winds blowing at 35-50 mph at the time he was found.
The climber had hiking and snow climbing experience but didn’t have crampons, an ice ax, a headlamp or a flashlight. He did have adequate clothing to survive his long wait for rescue.
Accompanied by rescuers, he reached Pinkham Notch at 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
In the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’s avalanche forecast for Saturday, Feb. 20, it was stated, “A sketchy mix of hard, icy surfaces and poorly bonded, reactive wind slabs exists in prime avalanche terrain. Long sliding falls on the icy surface and new wind slabs top the list of hazards today. If venturing into steep terrain, bring an ice ax and crampons (not just microspikes) in addition to your beacon, shovel and probe.”
It is critical for people hiking, climbing and skiing on Mount Washington to understand the variability of surface condition.