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Mt. Washington Climber Survives 1,300 Foot Fall

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File Image (AP Photo)

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A 31-year-old ice climber who fell about 1,300 feet after triggering an avalanche in a ravine on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington was able to call 911 in spite of his injuries, forest officials said Friday.

The New Hampshire man was out on a solo climb Thursday morning on the mountain’s Huntington Ravine. He started climbing down because he had concerns about unstable snow, said Tiffany Benna, a spokeswoman for the White Mountain National Forest. While descending, the snow gave way, carrying him down a gully to the bottom of the ravine.

Benna said the man suffered significant injuries but was able to dial 911 at about 10:45 a.m. Thursday. Snow rangers reached him a half-hour later via snowmobiles, put him on a sled, and took him to Memorial Hospital in North Conway.

The man’s name has not been released. The extent of his injuries and his condition were not immediately known Friday.

The U.S. Forest Service had rated the avalanche danger for the gully at “considerable” on Thursday and “high” on Friday. Signs are posted near the trail entrances with the day’s conditions.

Al Hospers of North Conway, an ice climber who writes a newsletter about trail conditions in the White Mountains and manages the website neclimbs.com, said the weather has varied a lot recently on the mountain, with a couple of warm-weather days mixed in with cold ones. Climbers are encountering a mix of snow and ice on the trails.

“Ice — it’s always different, it always changes. It changes from the base of the climb to the top of the climb,” Hospers said.

Hospers, 63, who said he has climbed the ravine a number of times, described the Pinnacle Gully, which the man was on, as a snow-covered, narrow cleft between the rocks that tops out on a slope.

He said using all the modern tools, the climb is “pretty reasonable to do — but very committing.”

“You’re completely on your own,” he said. Hospers said he was amazed the climber on Thursday was able to call for help — even able to get cell phone service in that area.

Hospers said it doesn’t take much to trigger an avalanche if a climber breaks through snow that may have formed on top of a layer ice. “All of a sudden it lets go and it sweeps you down.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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