Pro IQRA News Updates.
RJ Phipps was climbing Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington over the weekend with his wife when he pulled out his camera to photograph a snowboarder and a skier.
Within seconds, Phipps witnesses the two men nearly drown in an avalanche. He captured it all on video.
An unknown skier managed to scramble alongside an avalanche Saturday while the snowboarder appears to be almost surfing the avalanche down the mountain. The snowboarder, who was sitting when the avalanche went off, ended up several hundred feet down the ravine and waist-deep in the snow. Both persons escaped injury. The avalanche site was about 4,800 feet up the mountain.
“It looked like he was sliding down the mountain,” said Phipps, adding that he was surprised to see the men there and “very concerned because there are so many deaths that come with avalanches.”
“He was sitting there and when the avalanche started, it started and all the snow came off the mountain,” he said. “When he was going down, my only thought was to watch him. If he was going to be buried, where was the last place I saw him, so we had a starting point if we had to start the rescue.”
The avalanche was inadvertently triggered by the skier, who had backcountry experience in many snowy climates and mountain ranges, said Jeff Funegimi, acting director of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. Because of recent snowstorms, Fongemie described the potential for an avalanche at Tuckerman Ravine on Saturday as significant. He added that this person has the ability to “easily bury and kill a person”.
“It was just luck,” Funigemi said of the two survivors who escaped unharmed, whom he briefly interviewed before they left the area. “Once you get sucked into it, there’s not much you can do to control your own destiny. You just hope for the best.”
Avalanches are relatively common from December to May in the White Mountain National Forests, which include Mount Washington, Fungimi said. But they rarely harm or kill anyone.
A skier from Vermont died in February 2021 after an avalanche on Mount Washington. In December of that year, two skiers were caught in a man-made avalanche near the summit of Left Gully on Mount Washington, seriously injuring one of them.
“There are a lot of people who go out and have fun and not cause these avalanches,” Fungimi said. “It’s just about terrain choices.”