MOUNT WASHINGTON, N.H. – A skier triggered an avalanche near the top of Left Gully in Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire on Sunday.
According to the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, the skier was caught by the avalanche and carried and then triggered a second, bigger avalanche a short distance later, which carried him 800 vertical feet. The skier, who was skiing with a partner, landed on the snow and was unharmed.
A solo skier was hit by the avalanche and carried 450 vertical feet downhill, bumping against exposed rocks. That skier was seriously injured and transported by ambulance to the hospital.
According to the center, the mountain received 3 inches of new snow per day in the five days before the avalanche. The two skiers checked the snowpack for instability as they climbed to the top of Left Gully. However, when the first of the two skiers descended the mountain, a soft slab of snow released, knocking the skier over and carrying him down the mountain. When the snow and skier reached a narrow section of the gully, a larger avalanche – big enough to bury a person – was triggered.
The solo skier was about halfway up the mountain, where he stopped in preparation to ski when he was hit by the avalanche.
The third skier, who was still at the top of the mountain, skied down and searched for victims, finding his friend and the solo skier. Rescue work took five hours and involved nine people.
The Avalanche Center said the combination of new snow and wind creates slabs of drifted snow that may be unstable.
"Early season excitement, limited terrain to ski, solo skiing, shallow snowpack with rock-filled runouts, poor visibility and recent wind drifted snow are all factors that contributed to this unfortunate event," the center said.
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