Author Topic: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.  (Read 6742 times)

Offline Admin Al

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Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« on: January 17, 2013, 11:34:27 PM »
any details on this? the following was posted on FB by the Observatory:

"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."
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Offline ELM

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Offline Admin Al

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2013, 06:59:08 AM »
Apparently it was in Huntington Ravine and involved the Ascent Of Honor party. 3 were apparently injured, including the retired Marine doing the climb for charity. I don't know yet what trail/ climb they were on. Reports are that a slab avalanche swept them a long ways. That's all I know right now.
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Offline Admin Al

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2013, 08:50:00 AM »
This is what Thom Pollard posted on FB about the incident:

"Update on our climb: 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!"

I don't have any more details and I don't want to second guess anyone else's decisions. I'm sure there will be a lot of chatter about it in the coming days. FWIW the posting for Huntington was for Moderate and a lot of folks have varying feelings about what that means. However, the Forest Service Avy Report was right on:

"Due to the slick nature of the old bed surfaces you can expect frequent spindrift sluffing again today perhaps build into slabs on mid-slope benches such as in Odell, Pinnacle and Central.   Because of all this you will probably find some slopes on the upper end of the Moderate rating in several locales in the Huntington gullies."
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Offline Admin Al

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2013, 09:03:17 AM »
This is from this morning's Avalanche Advisory:

Quote
In the last two days, Mt. Washington has received just shy of 6” (15cm) of new snow. 3.6” (9cm) of this fell yesterday, which was greater than the forecasted amounts. During this time, W and NW winds were quite strong, gusting into the 80’s and 90’s mph (130-145kph). These did a great job of moving snow around in the ravines and creating stability problems. 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.

Bright blue skies this morning are allowing good visibility, though some new blowing snow is obscuring the very top of Central. This shouldn’t amount to much additional loading during the day, so this fact places the emphasis for today on the potential for human triggers. Currently, lots of old, gray snow is visible with fresh white patches of new windslab scattered around. These areas are in the lee of terrain features that often lower the windspeed enough for wind transported snow to be deposited but also in swales and other irregularities in the snowpack. Expect the usual strong degree of spatial variability as you move around today. Examples of the most windloaded locations include in Central Gully above the ice bulge, in pinch points in Odell and Yale, and all the snowfields in Tuckerman across the Lip and Center Bowl. This is not to say other areas are without hazard, so pay attention even in areas rated Low today.

Winds out of the west yesterday. Other areas to consider are the transitions from steep to flat where sluffing snow has accumulated at the base of ice and rock faces as well as at the near the tops of gullies. Given the rounded nature of our geologically elderly terrain, the tops of gullies are often less pronounced than more youthful mountains. So instead of an obvious overhanging cornice, you may encounter gradually steepening snow which has been deposited in the wind rotor created at the “edge” of the ravine. These areas are also features that you should assess very carefully and possibly avoid.

http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/category/avalanche-advisory-for-tuckerman-and-huntington-ravines/
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Offline old_school

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2013, 09:54:56 AM »
I wonder what route they were on? Very lucky indeed, must have been a terrifying ride.
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you will be a mile away from them and you will have their shoes."

Offline Admin Al

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2013, 11:06:47 AM »
they were on Central...
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Offline old_school

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Re: Avalanche in Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2013, 11:31:58 AM »
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 09:43:28 AM by Admin Al »
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you will be a mile away from them and you will have their shoes."

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Offline DanRudmin

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2013, 07:00:05 PM »
We were at Harvard cabin with them, and the only other group heading up that day. We left around 9:30 and passed them near the base of Huntington. By that time it was snowing heavily with low visibility and fairly strong winds. We checked out the base of Pinnacle and turned back returning to the cabin around noon. They were organizing near the split with Central last we saw. When we went down to Pinkham at 2 it was clear and calm on the trail. The USFS ranger had stopped by that morning and gave a warning of pretty much exactly what happened.

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2013, 07:57:56 PM »
I am very glad to hear no one was killed, and hope that when the whole group has had some time to heal and reflect on the choices for the day, route selection, lack of avalanche safety gear, travel techniques, etc they'll share their errors in detail with the public in order to help prevent similar accidents. Statements like "a slab avalanche broke loose" shirk responsibility. The group triggered the avalanche, it was not a natural avalanche, and the bulletin spelled out the how very possible this was.

Strong human factors, from climbing for a great cause, to having a film crew documenting the ascent, led people to either ignore the risks that were presented from both Mother Nature and the USFS Snow Rangers or caused them to accept much greater risk than they would have otherwise. Serious self-reflection and a willingness to share what really led to this incident will help save lives in the future.

Offline Admin Al

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2013, 10:54:36 AM »
interesting... there were two experienced Everest climbers in this group. unfortunately one got a serious leg injury.

http://www.conwaydailysun.com/index.php/newsx/local-news/94842-avalanche-011913
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Offline neiceclimber

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2013, 12:44:05 PM »
Not to demean anyone, but Modern day Everest is a walk up and more a testament to lung power than climbing ability.

My armchair response.

12 people is a lot to have on one slope under moderate ratings.

Aside from the avalanche, what I find most interesting is the amount of time they spent getting to the top. 4 hours from the cabin to the top of the fan and then another 4 hours to ascend the next 800 feet. Let's say this never happened and they kept chugging on, they still were only half way up in deteriorating conditions. It seems to me that based on their movements this thing was ripe for a rescue regardless of the avalanche.

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2013, 06:23:49 PM »
Really wish media would stop reporting “an avalanche happened” vrs. “a party triggered an avalanche”... every mainstream report makes it sound like this was some natural event... this was triggered by the film crew...

I was just reading a blog post by the guide from a few weeks ago talking about preparing for this trip... very interesting to hear what his biggest concerns for the day were:

http://ascentsofhonor.org/2012/12/28/managing-a-full-plate/

In particular:

"The primary focus turns out to be, of course, safety: no one gets bad frostbite, hit by a rock/falling ice/a thermos/or (heaven forbid) a camera (especially if it is turned off). Nobody gets caught in an avalanche, struck by lightning, blown off a ridge, or separated alone in a whiteout. Barring all that, every effort will be to encourage the audience to reach deep into their wallets and donate to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Every tweet, Facebook post, blog vignette, picture, blank screen to fill, will be towards that goal. Every effort will be to take this adventure and twist it around to convince every reader to convert their appreciation, honor and thanks into a contribution to the SOWF.

As the trip leader, I’m not unduly afraid of the hazards listed above. Those, I know how to manage.

No, my fears are: we won’t get the photos/video we want, the weather will not cooperate (in this case, it won’t be bad enough; Keith is so strong and skilled, anything less would be too straightforward), we won’t get posts out, we’ll get in a wreck on the drive up there, visibility will be zero, we inadvertently delete a huge pile of video, etc."
« Last Edit: January 19, 2013, 10:53:28 PM by DMan »

Offline JakeDatc

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Re: Avalanche in either Tucks or Huntington on Thursday.
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2013, 08:13:28 PM »
http://www.facebook.com/AscentsofHonor

The ignorance and passing off blame is ridiculous...   some guy tried to claim the guys weren't rescued  lol..  apparently 14 rescuers, 3 litter sleds and a snowcat doesn't count...

the attitude by the "leader" about going for the most difficult scenario seems like he was asking for the shit to hit the fan... problem was they got burned and didn't have a  "sweet epic brahhh" 
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