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‘These individuals were incredibly lucky’: Two hikers, both 20, fall 500 feet on Mt. Washington but escape serious injury

The auto road that leads to the top of Mount Washington.
The auto road that leads to the top of Mount Washington.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Two young men were “incredibly lucky” to avoid severe injuries after falling about 500 feet on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on Mount Washington in New Hampshire last weekend, officials said.

In a statement, the Mount Washington Avalanche Center said the hikers, both 20, were climbing the trail around 11 a.m. Saturday when they fell from the top of the ravine, hitting boulders and ice along the way down.

One came to a stop on a ledge above the final ice cliff while the other fell until he landed on his upper back in the snow below the ice cliff, officials said. Their names were not released.

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Snow rangers were alerted shortly after noon. Around 12:30 p.m., a rescue team spotted one of the men walking downhill with a bystander. After an assessment, the man continued walking, with assistance, to a US Forest Service cabin for additional screening.

The rangers decided the safest way to reach the second man was to climb steep snow to his right, rather than ascend directly up the ice cliff. They reached him shortly after 1 p.m.

“He was chilled, as he had been sitting on the snow for about two hours, so he was given an extra jacket and gloves,” officials said. “The patient was provided a harness and rope belay, and guided down steep snow to the ravine floor.”

Officials said the second man’s injuries “were limited” and he was comfortable walking to the cabin for further assessment.

One man reported that his microspikes lost traction during the hike, officials said.

“He said he fell forward like a starfish, slid over an ice bulge, and continued falling,” they said. “His partner saw this happen, lost his footing, and subsequently fell as well.”

The center said the men were “incredibly lucky,” having avoided significant trauma despite the numerous bumps and bruises they sustained.

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The Avalanche Center warned the public that this winter has seen slower snowpack development than in recent years, presenting a “minefield of challenges and consequences” to hikers. Snow accumulation took a “big hit” with a Christmas rainstorm and January has seen less than six inches of snow.

In addition, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail through the headwall becomes especially challenging in the winter.

“Individuals choosing to climb this route should be prepared with proper mountaineering equipment and the skills to use them,” officials said, recommending that hikers come outfitted with rigid boots, crampons, two ice axes, avalanche rescue gear such as a beacon, probe, and shovel, and a roped system to guard against a long, dangerous fall.

“While we all learn from mistakes, we can stack the cards in our favor to avoid mistakes such as these,” officials said.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.