Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2002-11-29
Submitted By: Christopher P. Joosen
Place: Tuckerman Ravine
State: NH
Country: USA
Fatalities: 2
Summary: 7 climbers caught, 4 buried, 2 killed

I'll be doing a full report over the weekend

as well as more investigation. The whole story is quite long so I'll skip

all the details and stick with some basics. Around 11:20-11:25, on Friday

11/29, 7 climbers in 3 separate parties (party of 3, 2, and 2) were

climbing on the right or North side of the Ravine when the highest of the 7

triggered a slab avalanche. Size at this time unknown due to snow and low

visibility, but this start zone is approximately 85-60ft if the entire

pocket went. As it moved down it picked up snow on the way through other

snowfields and over ice and rock. The debris is approx 300ft by 60ft and

quite variable in depth as it filled in areas on the floor that were full

of the early season trees and boulders so 1 to 12-14 feet depending on

location. The attached picture shows the 4 holes marked with a probe in

each. Ignore the group of probes to the right. 1 is close, 2nd by the

litter and left of the group of probes, and then the other 2 beyond.

Bulletins from yesterday and today were right on and discussed these exact

aspects and what to watch for. Survivors saw the forecast and talked to

people at the highway visitor center and the backcountry caretaker at

Hermit Lake about the Moderate danger moving towards Considerable in areas.

They were given clear bullseye evidence in the field multiple times , but

chose to continue. No one had beacon, shovel, or probe. More to follow.

Forward if you wish. I'll send along the text of the report when it is

complete. It looks like we're off and running already. Chris

P.S. We are still in

somewhat early conditions so we have gone back and forth a bit between

general advisories and a 5 scale rating since the end of October. A lot

of our snowfields are still broken up with rocks and ice so there hasn't

been much to discuss in the bulletins, but light snow loading over areas of

an ice crust have been the cause of most recent concern, and I suspect, was

the cause of this accident. Nothing exotic, basic soft slab on a crust.

But I have yet to see, We are getting some more light density snow, with

wind of course, so I'm not sure if I can safely get in there tomorrow or

not. I suspect the crown is filling in as we speak. Take Care

Christopher P. Joosen

Lead Snow Ranger/Dispersed Recreation Supervisor

Director-Mount Washington Avalanche Center

White Mountain National Forest