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Tragedy and Rescues at Tucks

Tragedy and Rescues at Tucks

By Tim Sweeney
posted: 02/19/2001

Piles of snow in the East last winter left ideal conditions for all kinds of backcountry snowsliding in Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine. But on June 3, the usual festive times turned tragic when a 22-year-old ski patroller from Ottawa was killed.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, Hillary Manion was skiing with a group of ski patrollers from Canada and had just dropped into the hourglass-shaped Chute, located to the skier's right of the ravine, around 2 p.m. She fell, tumbled 500 feet to the bottom, and was knocked unconscious. Manion suffered an open skull fracture and was not wearing a helmet, though officials say it's difficult to determine whether that would have made a difference in such a fall. She stopped breathing while rescuers were transporting her down the mountain.

In April, two Harvard graduate students literally got in over their heads when they had to be rescued from a crevasse in the ravine. Jonathan Lee, 27, and Jessamin Ming-Kay Ng, 24, were glissading (butt-sliding) down the headwall when they dropped 25 feet into a crevasse.

A team of rescuers spent most of the night hauling them out of the hole and lowering them down the mountain. Lee suffered a ruptured spleen, damaged liver, and fractured ribs. Ng fractured her pelvis and both ankles.

"What got them into trouble was they didn't know the terrain," U.S. Forest Service Snow Ranger Marianne Leberman said. "Glissading is a fun thing to do as long as you know what's below you."

That was the first crevasse rescue at Tuckerman since 1994; rescue workers went through a second one in May when Vicki Mercier slid into a crevasse, falling nearly 20 feet. She was pulled out with a harness and walked away with only a minor injury. "People need to come prepared and seek us out for advice," Leberman added, "that's why we're here."

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