Mt. Washington, NH – Tuckerman Ravine, a very popular destination for self-served East Coast spring skiing, was the site of yet another snow travel related tragedy on Sunday, April 1st, 2012. 67 year-old Boston, MA resident Norman Priebatsch was hiking with 3 others in the area when he slipped and fell at approximately 3:30pm, plunging some 100 feet into a nearby crevasse.
Members of the U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Mountain Club and local search and rescue groups responded promptly. Snow Ranger Jeff Lane at one point was lowered 50 feet into the crevasse yet could not safely continue further due to the apparent dangerous conditions. The search for Priebatsch was suspended late Sunday “due to unsafe snow conditions” and “has not resumed,” said Tiffany Benna, public affairs officer for the White Mountains National Forest.
Lane suspects that Priebatsch may have been swept away by a stream undercutting the snowpack, accounting for why they have not been able to make contact with him. “Things are melting and there’s running water coming down and undermining the snow,” Benna said. “Ice is coming off in big chunks. It’s in an avalanche kind of field site.”
The treacherous conditions in the area of the accident continued to limit rescue efforts for Monday and Tuesday. “We’re looking at it as a recovery effort now, as opposed to a rescue,” Ranger Lane said Tuesday.
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center issued the following statement about Tuesday’s conditions for Tuckerman Ravine:
“Taking into account the extent of crevasses, the severity of the consequences, and the inability to assess the hazard, the greater Lip area, which includes a section of the summer hiking trail should be avoided entirely. As we have discussed in past weeks this is also true for the heavily crevassed areas in the northern portions of the Center Bowl underneath the headwall ice, Lip and areas towards the Sluice all the way down to the Ravine floor.”
This is the second tragic accident to occur in the area this year. In January another Massachusetts hiker, 46 year-old Patrick Powers, died after falling 800 feet while hiking in Tuckerman Ravine.