Safety on Mount Washington depends on mountain's 'Friends'

Special to the Union Leader
January 22. 2013 10:09PM
Mount Washington shows a cold shoulder to eastern slope residents on Tuesday. Frequently in and out of the clouds, Mount Washington can take on a mystical aura when seen from the valley, increasing its allure to adventurers. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

MOUNT WASHINGTON - The lure of climbing on Mount Washington in winter is irresistible to an increasing numbers of outdoors enthusiasts, while, according to the nonprofit organization, Friends of Mount Washington Avalanche Center, money that goes to make those treks safer is decreasing.

The Friends support the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, and on Friday at 6 p.m. the organization is hosting a fundraiser at the Frontside Grind in North Conway Village. The evening includes live music, a silent auction, and pizza and beer. Also featured will be a photo essay by U. S. Forest Service Snow Ranger and photographer Joe Klementovich, as well as an update on this winter's conditions in Tuckerman and Huntington ravines.

Donations are appreciated, with proceeds going to the programs of the center, which is operated by the U.S. Forest Service's Androscoggin Ranger District. The center is the only avalanche center east of the Rocky Mountains. Among their duties, rangers post detailed avalanche advisories each day, and also posts incident summaries after search and rescue operations. Beginning in December each year the Forest Service takes over responsibility from New Hampshire Fish and Game for search and rescue incidents in the Cutler River Drainage on the eastern slopes of Mount Washington. That area includes both Tuckerman and Huntington ravines.

That update on Friday will include the recent avalanche in Huntington Ravine, which injured three climbers. The climbers, former Marine Corps special operator Keith Zeier, and Andy and J.P. Politz, were part of a fundraising project for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Ascents of Honor. Zeier was injured during a deployment in Iraq, and lost a leg as a result.

"With the value of 20/20 hindsight, any accident can be picked apart by someone looking to place blame or find mistakes that may have been made. This is not our intent here. The purpose is to try to determine what lessons can be learned from the decisions that led to the accident so others can learn from these experiences and avoid making similar choices," reads the Jan. 17th Avalanche Accident in Central Gully report on the center's website.

The Friends group was created in 2011, according to Bill Downey, owner of Portsmouth Kayak Adventures, who said at the time, "We've established this group in order to assist the MWAC in maintaining the quality of services we've come to know and appreciate."

For more information got to, and

HikingMt. WashingtonPhoto Feature

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