Snowboarder Lost on Mt Washington
April 25. 2011. After a snowboarder heading for the summit of Mt. Washington on the afternoon of the 24th did not return, the US Forest Service Snow Rangers called the Mountain Rescue Service to help in the search. Team members were called at 3:45am to meet at the Snow Ranger garage at 6am. Lead Snow Ranger Chris Joosen had a plan formed to have MRS break into 4 teams and scour 4 key areas above treeline: Raymond Cataract, the south side of the summit cone, the east snowfields and the northern side of the summit. With bad weather approaching we were racing the clock to find this guy before rain set in. April is still a very wintery month on Mt Washington and it would be difficult for anyone to survive a night out in the cold rain without the proper gear.
Three teams went to the summit to work down, and two from below working their way up. Often, when someone becomes lost above treeline on the east side of Mt Washington, they end up in Raymond Cataract, a steep, densely treed area between Tuckerman Ravine and Huntington Ravine so this was a key area to check out. By early afternoon, all teams had searched their areas and the missing snowboarder had not turned up.
Shifting our focus, two of the summit teams went south to Oak’s Gulf where we found fresh tracks from a snowboarder heading into the ravine. Oak’s gulf is a popular ski destination and typically skiers access the gullies from the top, ski down a gully then hike back up and out avoiding the 7 miles or so of hiking through the Dry River from Crawford Notch. Four team members descended one of the main gullies to find his tracks at the bottom of the ravine and in following them, found they continued south, out the ravine and on to Dry River heading for Crawford Notch. We knew this was our man.
Just as it was looking like we were in for a long and difficult hike through the Dry River, the lost snowboarder was spotted by helicopter not far from Rt 302 so a team was sent in to intercept him at that end. Off the hook, we climbed back out of Oak’s Gulf and descended back to Tuckerman Ravine by glissading the entire length of Hillman’s Highway.
The missing snowboarder had climbed Right Gully in Tuckerman Ravine and became disoriented in the clouds after hiking to the summit. With limited visibility, he mistook Oak’s Gulf for Tuckerman Ravine and after discovering his error on the floor of Oak’s Gulf, spent the next 20 hours hiking his way out to Crawford Notch. He was found to be very tired, but physically fine.