Lt. Douglas J. Gralenski, 603-788-4850
Jane Vachon, 603-271-3211
March 29, 2010
Trails above Treeline Remain Icy
Hiker Rescued after Surviving 1,500 Foot Fall in White Mountains
LANCASTER, N.H. – A White Mountain hiker was rescued Sunday evening, March 28, 2010, after surviving a perilous fall down the slope of King Ravine. On Sunday afternoon, hikers Douglas Soholt, age 25, of Colorado, and Nathaniel Blauss, age 28, of Hanson, Mass., were hiking the trails on the north side of Mt. Adams. At about 1:30 PM, after having successfully reached the summit of Mt. Adams, they were beginning their descent on the Gulfside Trail located to the north of the Mt. Adams summit. Soholt lost his footing, falling on the icy alpine slab that is prevalent above treeline at this time of year, and began to slide downward into King Ravine. Because of the steep terrain, Soholt was not able to stop his fall and was last seen by his companion sliding in the direction of the headwall of King Ravine. Soholt had slid approximately 100 yards and was still descending at a rapid rate when he disappeared from view.
A short while later, Soholt was able to call 911 with his cell phone. The fallen hiker gave his general position and reported that he had suffered some superficial head injuries but was otherwise unharmed. He was stranded near the treeline and could not go up or down. This call alerted rescuers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Advanced Search and Rescue Team, as well as members of the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue (AVSAR), that a high-angle, technical rescue would be required.
"Hasty" teams (rapid-response ground teams) consisting of five Conservation Officers and four AVSAR members were mobilized to respond to the Appalachia Parking Lot in Randolph to ascend into King Ravine. Rescuers were to search the large headwall area of the ravine both from the bottom and from the rim, where Soholt was last seen. Because Soholt had survived his fall, it was assumed that he had come to rest prior to pitching over the steepest part of the ravine headwall. Ultimately, this would prove to be a false assumption.
At about 8:30 PM, Conservation Officers Brad Morse and Alex Lopashanski made visual contact with Soholt. Miraculously, the hiker had fallen approximately two thirds of the way down the headwall of King Ravine, or roughly 1,500 feet down extremely steep terrain, before he was able to stop. He was initially spotted by the light of his headlamp. It took about an hour for the rescuers to reach him.
Once in the hands of rescuers, Soholt was lowered out of the steep terrain and was able to walk out under his own power with the aid of rescuers. He reached the safety of the trailhead at 12:45 a.m. Soholt’s right eye had swollen shut, and he had suffered other lacerations to his head, but was in remarkably good condition considering the magnitude of his fall. He was transported to Memorial Hospital in North Conway for treatment.
“Truthfully, I knew he was all right because he had spoken to 911 after he had fallen. However, if all I had known was where and how far he had fallen, I would have been preparing to remove a critically injured or deceased person," said Lt. Douglas Gralenski of Fish and Game. "He is one very fortunate person to still be with us. If he had hit any rocks or trees of substance on his descent, he would not have survived the fall.”
The underlying warning this incident carries for other hikers is the importance of being prepared for the unexpected in the outdoors. “They were not planning on hiking in technical terrain and packed accordingly,” said Gralenski. Soholt was wearing “micro crampons” (similar to ice creepers) and carrying ski poles.
“It is still very much winter above treeline. Although many trails above treeline are not viewed as technical terrain, they are very icy. And, as this incident shows, unexpected accidents can have dire consequences," Gralenski said. "Micro crampons have their place in hiking, but it is not on the Gulfside Trail or any other alpine trails near technical terrain. Traditional crampons and an ice axe, not ski poles, should be standard equipment in this area. If Soholt had these two pieces of gear, he most likely would have been able to prevent his fall or self-arrest immediately after the fall. Not having them could have easily been a fatal mistake.”
Find information on safe hiking, including recommended gear lists, at www.hikesafe.com.
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