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Skier dies after falling nearly 600 feet down Mount Washington ravine


By Sarah Dewberry, CNN

(CNN) — A skier has died after she fell nearly 600 feet down an icy ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire over the weekend, officials say.

The woman and two others were backcountry skiing on Saturday, US Forest Service public affairs specialist Colleen Mainville said.

Authorities said 20-year-old Madison Saltsburg was killed. The skier “suffered fatal traumatic injuries” after falling down Tuckerman Ravine, Mainville said in a news release. The two survivors suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Mainville said the three faced hard, icy snow surfaces, open crevasse holes and unforgiving conditions for slipping and falling.

Mainville said the US Forest Service and Mount Washington Avalanche Center (MWAC) conducted a rescue effort to evacuate Saltsburg off the mountain.

Mainville said the avalanche center’s snow ranger team worked another situation Saturday in which two other skiers sustained traumatic injuries from rocks and ice.

Jeff Fongemie, director of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, told CNN affiliate WRUM that Saturday was an unusually busy day with “an elevated sense of emergency to it.”

“I think over the course of the week, we lost something like 13 inches of snow in the snowpack. So, it was warm, we had some rain, it was a wet snowpack. Temperatures dropped, and it got cold and it froze it became kind of a firm surface,” Fongemie told WRUM.

WRUM reported ski patrol training had taken place earlier in the day and the rescue operation had a full staff.

On its website, the Forest Service says the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is covered in snow and ice in winter and has “highly exposed steep cliffs and slopes below it.”

“From late fall through late spring or even early summer, think of it more as a mountaineering ascent than a hike. The consequences of a fall or being involved in an avalanche can be dire,” it says.

The agency says traveling in avalanche terrain requires careful use of mountaineering tools and equipment including crampons, ice axe and the skills to use them. It was not known Sunday whether the skiers had such equipment.

The Appalachian Mountain Club, which operates huts on Mount Washington, describes the Tuckerman Ravine as “the birthplace of extreme skiing in the US.”

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