April 11 — a day of sunshine, blue sky and new snow — seemed nearly perfect in its beauty. For one skier on Mount Washington, however, the day would prove deadly.
The avalanche rating was moderate, which translates to: “Heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features. Evaluate snow and terrain carefully; identify features of concern.”
The MWAC report noted “a sketchy mix of wind scoured bulletproof ice crust and fresh wind slabs.” By the end of the day, multiple human-triggered avalanches had been reported in and around Tuckerman Ravine.
One of those, triggered near noontime, caught skier Nicholas Benedix in Raymond Cataract, which sits on the other side of the Lion’s Head ridge from Tuckerman Ravine.
The slide carried Benedix , of Campton, into a streambed below, where he was buried beneath about 4 feet of snow.
Benedix was an experienced backcountry skier. He knew the terrain of Mount Washington well. He was wearing a beacon. But he was skiing alone.
Carus learned of the avalanche crown while talking with another skier at Hermit Lake about an hour and a half after the avalanche had occurred.
He reached the slide path within 30 minutes of that conversation and was able to locate Benedix using his beacon, then dig him out.
Despite the efforts of the snow rangers, they were unable to save Benedix.
The MWAC report of that day details the slide specifics and the steps taken to try to rescue Benedix.
“The reality of skiing during any periods of avalanche danger is that absolute certain stability does not exist,” the report reads.
“Anyone with a bit of avalanche education may question the terrain selection that Nicholas made that day,” the report continues. “But many more would admit to making similar choices in similar conditions.”