Gorham, NH February 23, 2021 —A 63 year old Brookline, MA man was reported missing to US Forest Service (USFS) personnel at 11:00 p.m., on Saturday, February 20, 2021, 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 a steep, icy slope above an area known as Lunch Rocks in Tuckerman Ravine at approximately 2:45 a.m., February 21, 2021, and he was able to walk out assisted by rescuers from the Mountain Rescue Service, Androscoggin Valley Search & Rescue, Mount Washington Valley Ski Patrol, US Forest Service and Appalachian Mountain Club. Temperatures on the summit were -6F with northwest winds 35-50 mph at the time he was found. The climber had hiking and snow climbing experience, but didn’t have crampons, an ice axe, a headlamp or a flashlight, though he had adequate clothing to survive his long wait for rescue. 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.
The first paragraph of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center (MWAC) avalanche forecast on February 20, 2021 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 axe and crampons (not just microspikes) in addition to your beacon, shovel and probe. Natural avalanches aren’t likely during daylight hours, but human-triggered avalanches are possible with slabs 1-2’ thick in isolated areas; large enough to bury a person."
It is critical for people hiking, climbing and skiing on Mount Washington to understand the variability of surface condition. Winter visitors to the White Mountain NF are encouraged to read the avalanche forecast in addition to the higher summits forecast posted at www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org and mountwashington.org.