News from the
White Mountain National Forest
Release Date: January 20, 2014
Contact: Tiffany Benna, Public Affairs Officer
"Forest Service and Partners Rescue Four on Mount Washington
On Sunday, January 19, 2014, a group of 15 from Bloomsburg University attempted to summit Mount Washington. The party left early Sunday morning making it to Lion Head mid-morning when five people descended back to Pinkham Notch and 10 continued on to the summit. The group of 10 summited at 12:30pm and began descending in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Four individuals were separated from the larger group while descending the summit cone. Wayne Ebling 59, from Cressona PA; Rhea Mitchell, 22 from Danville PA; Andrew Snyder, 22 from York PA; and Kelly Sloan, 33 from Bloomsburg PA passed a critical trail junction above treeline and became disoriented. Winds were building to 65mph which created very low visibility and ground blizzards. The four tried to dig into snow for shelter, called 911, and activated their SPOT device.
The NH Fish and Game was notified by the SPOT call system and NH State Police. NH Fish and Game then called the United States Forest Service to alert them of the situation. The two Agencies worked together and coordinated a number of teams in very difficult conditions. Some of the regions strongest mountaineers and experienced groups battled wind gusts to 95mph, temperatures below 0F, and horrendous visibility to locate the lost party.
Members from Mountain Rescue Service (MRS), the New Hampshire Fish and Game, and US Forest Service Snow Rangers made up three mixed teams. Teams hiked up the Lion Head Trail and were shuttled up the Auto Road to move across the Alpine Garden. New Hampshire State Parks played a critical role with Snowcat support. Two snow vehicles moved rescuers up and down the mountain, and finally, the lost group on the descent. Additional support, equipment and rescuers from the Appalachian Mountain Club, The Harvard Mountaineering Club, the Mount Washington Observatory, Friends of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center and the Mount Washington Auto Road helped tremendously.
Search and Rescue operations concluded at approximately 3:30 am Monday morning when Snowcats arrived at the Glen house to off load all those involved to waiting ambulances.
Forest Service Snow Ranger Christopher Joosen stated “This was a colossal team effort from many groups in the New Hampshire Search and Rescue community. This rescue effort, in some of Mount Washington’s worst weather, was an enormous success that saved lives within the missing group. It was also another example of Volunteer Teams working together with Federal and State Agencies to help mountaineers who are lost and hurt. Each organization played a critical role to the extent that lacking any of their contributions this mission may have ended very differently.”
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."