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February 13. 2014 9:50PM

Mt. Washington avalanche danger warning

PINKHAM NOTCH — The Mount Washington Avalanche Center raised its "danger scale" for both Tuckerman and Huntington ravines on Mount Washington from "moderate" to "considerable" on Thursday.

The center's danger scale starts at low, and then climbs to moderate, considerable, high and, ultimately, extreme, when both natural and human-triggered avalanches are certain.

According to an October 2008 article on Backpacker.com, Mount Washington "boasts some scary stats," among them that more than 130 people have died on its slopes since 1849, some in avalanches. The article noted that despite its relatively modest size, Mount Washington was "known as the most dangerous small mountain in the world."

On Dec. 28, 2013, two hikers descending from the summit triggered an avalanche that carried them down the lip of Tuckerman Ravine. They were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

On March 1, 2013, the avalanche center said a solo ice climber died as the result of injuries suffered in an avalanche in Pinnacle Gully. The avalanche danger that day was "moderate."

An avalanche on Jan. 1, 2013, in Central Gully in Huntington Ravine swept three people over the edge. The climbers survived, but were injured.

A hiker was killed on April 1, 2012, in Tuckerman Ravine when he fell on icy terrain and slid into crevasse in the lower portion of the bowl, in the vicinity of the "Open Book" area, the avalanche center said, and less than three months earlier, on Jan. 9, 2012, a solo hiker died when he fell near the "lip" area of Tuckerman Ravine.

The avalanche center reported no fatalities in 2014, although U.S. Forest Service snow rangers responded to a medical incident on Feb. 1 in the Harvard Cabin and on Jan. 19 to a report of four hikers stranded above Tuckerman Ravine.

The "considerable avalanche advisory" for Tuckerman and Huntington ravines was in place until midnight Thursday and the avalanche center warned that "Today is not the day for a slow ascent leading to an after-dark descent of any route in our forecast area due to the increasing avalanche danger and reduced visibility."

Conditions on Mount Washington, however, will probably remain difficult for hikers into Sunday, with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, reporting that the mountain would be buffeted by winds that will reach a high of 80 mph tonight. The winds would be accompanied by snow and temperatures ranging from the single digits above zero to double digits below.

jkoziol@newstote.com


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