NORTH CONWAY — A 24-year-old man from Martha's Vineyard described as terrifying his estimated 800-foot plunge down Tuckerman Ravine in an avalanche.
Speaking in a telephone interview Monday evening from his bed at Memorial Hospital in North Conway following surgery on his arm, Adam Herman of Oak Bluffs, Mass., sounded grateful to be alive.
"It was pretty scary," Herman said. "I went sliding to the bottom. I didn't realize how badly I was hurt. My arm was broken in seven places. I have a broken back and a broken shoulder. I have more surgery scheduled. But the adrenaline was pumping pretty good, and it was cold. Conor didn't fall as far as I did. We could hear each other, and he slid down to me on his butt."
Herman said he and friend Conor Lodge had started back down the mountain from the Mount Washington summit late Saturday afternoon.
They were waiting for two other members of their hiking party — all are in their early 20s — to come back from the top and rejoin them.
That's when white-out conditions struck.
"We wanted to be down before nightfall," Herman said. "We waited at the checkpoint for an hour for them. Then when we started down, we got disoriented in the snow."
With Conor's brother, Tristan Lodge, also of Oak Bluffs, and their friend, Rich Kubec, of Vineyard Haven, Mass., in the rear, Herman and Conor took a wrong turn.
"Instead of going down the trail, we took a left," Herman said.
They couldn't have gone further astray. Their course led them to the deadliest section of the White Mountains, Tuckerman Ravine. With a rainy thaw earlier in the week followed by heavy snowfall, conditions were unusually treacherous, rescuers said later.
Within a short distance, Herman and Conor Lodge felt everything beneath them give way.
It would be hours before the two would see the faint flashlight beam of two others who had been at the summit, and were bringing them hot fluids to drink and dry clothes.
Herman credited Tristan Lodge's efforts to get help as a key to avoiding a possible tragedy.
A rescue team would reach the injured hikers, but it was 2 a.m. Sunday before everyone got down. Still not realizing the serious nature of his back injury, Herman said he slid sitting down much of the trail during the return trip. Conor Lodge, meanwhile, suffered a concussion in his fall.
Adam Herman's dad, Jim Herman, a teacher at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, is one of the many in the chorus that includes rescuers and state officials who know how fortunate the two young men are to be alive.
"He's doing OK," Jim Herman said by telephone from his son's hospital room Monday evening.