For those who knew Scott, and have asked for the details:
On Friday November 29th my friend Scott Sandberg and I hiked up to Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington. The conditions were above average for an early winter day. We had been tracking the weather and avalanche conditions for several days and were comfortable in this setting. As we roped up, 4 feet apart at the base of a climb, we were overtaken by a silent avalanche. The snow poured down on us for several seconds, and all I heard was the eerie hissing and thumping sound of the snow falling and sweeping past. I was thrown to the ground and Scott was swept away. Due to our slightly different positions next to the cliff, I was untouched. The avalanche debris stretched for approximately 100 yards downslope, by 20 yards wide. Immediately after the avalanche I ran downslope toward a hand waving for help, protruding from the avalanche debris. I uncovered his face and found a person I did not know. He was injured and in pain, but now he could breathe. I told him I was sorry that I had to leave him, but I had others to dig out. I ran further downslope to find another hand and a head protruding from the snow. I made sure he could breath, and he appeared uninjured. I told him I had to go search for others. I scanned upslope and found no more hands waving from the snow.
The Hermit Lake Caretaker and numerous hikers/rescuers appeared on the scene and began to dig out the two victims. I told them there were others still missing. I found my climbing rope, which Scott had in his hands when the avalanche hit. We had not yet tied into the rope. I had nothing else to go by, so I decided to look there. I pulled hand-over-hand at the rope until it wouldn,t budge, then I dug. Within a minute I found Scott, unconscious, his face just a foot beneath the surface. I called to the gathering rescuers who swarmed on us, and we dug furiously. Quickly he was out of the snow and CPR was being provided by an EMT and another trained volunteer. Scott was found within 5 minutes of the avalanche. I joined the 10-20 rescuers and we searched/probed for the last victim, Tom Burke, for approximately an hour before he was found. He was unresponsive. Both Scott and Tom were removed by sled and later pronounced dead of head and neck injuries. I give my sincere thanks to the numerous hikers/rescuers who worked so hard to save people they had never met, particularly to the Hermit Lake Caretaker and the volunteer who provided CPR to Scott.
I offer the following advice to those who venture into the mountains, particularly in winter. First, obtain sufficient training in first aid and avalanche awareness to help yourself and those around you. This help was comforting during the rescue, but would not have helped Scott or Mr. Burke that day. The conditions were generally good, but the slope above still avalanched. We found Scott quickly, but he died more quickly, even though trained volunteers were on the scene. Second, be aware of where you are in relation to others on the mountain. The avalanche was likely triggered by a party of 3 above us. I assign no blame to anyone, as they probably did the best they could under the circumstances. All three men were swept down the mountain, one died and one was injured. But climbing in winter, above or below others, is inherently dangerous. If you find yourself in unstable snow, get off the snow and onto rock or ice before you or someone below you is hurt. Third, avalanche prediction is an extremely inexact science. It is impossible to know or describe the conditions in a feature as large and varied as a whole valley, simply by applying one word ("moderate") to the snow hazard. When some hazard is present, but it's low enough so that people still go there, this increases the danger. Lastly, try to make some assessment of the conditions well above you, not just where you are on the mountain.
Scott will be missed by everyone he touched, particularly his wife Rhona and 8 year old daughter Jessica. A memorial fund has been established in his name, to assist his family. Donations can be made to:
Scott Sandberg Memorial Fund
Medford Cooperative Bank
856 Mass. Ave.
Arlington MA 02476