NEK Mountain Guide Witnesses Tuckerman’s Ravine Avalanche

MT. WASHINGTON, NH — Local mountain climbing instructor, John Kascenska had a ringside seat last week for an historic avalanche at Mt. Washington’s Tuckerman’s Ravine, in an area known as The Lip.

The Kingdom Adventures Mountain Guide, operating out of East Burke, called it the “largest avalanche” he had ever seen in the area. He has been working at Mt. Washington all winter. “It has been great learning experience to bring my avalanche clients up there to see the magnitude and destructive power of an avalanche, caued by the 3” rain and rapid warm up we all experienced.”

According to the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center’s website, beginning on Jan. 11, a prolonged period of rain that fell “… saturated the thick snowpack that has developed from the 144” of total summit snowfall to date this winter.

The post noted, “After inspecting the site, it seems likely that the firm snowpack, weakened by rain, burst like a dam as water pressure built up in the stream channel beneath. The avalanche measured 160’ across the 12-20’ crown and ran 2,000’ with a vertical fall of 500’. By the avalanche size and destructive potential scales, this avalanche is classified as R3D3.5 or medium relative to path and capable of easily destroying wood frame houses or a railroad car.”

Kascenska, an instructor for the International Mountain Climing School, said he was at the mountain when the avalanche occurred, and he shared photos from the site this week, when he returned. In addition to running Kingdom Adventures Mountain Guides, Kascenska is also the president of Lyndon Rescue, Inc.

“During the winter months, I teach three-day avalanche courses that are authorized by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE),” Kascenska said. He has taught the course for Lyndon State College, the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School, and currently through the International Mountain Climbing School, said Kascenska. He also leads courses through his business.

Kascenska said, “This winter season, I am teaching 12 courses this for the International Mountain Climbing School located in North Conway, NH. Nearly all of our courses are filled to capacity which speaks to their popularity.” Through courses he has led the past 15 years, using nationally recognized curriculum, he has taught more than 100 courses and trained more than 1,000 people in avalanche safety “to become better decision makers when planning for and travelling through avalanche terrain,” he said Friday.

Kascenska also teaches SOLO Wildnerness First Aid (WFA) and SOLO Wildnerness First Responder certification courses. He said winter travelers are encouraged to have taken at least a WFA course “to sharpen their skills in the event someone were caught in an avalanche and needed rescue and first aid in the back country.”

According to Kascenska, his primary goal in reaching out to the newspaper about the avalanche last Sunday in Tuckerman’s Ravine was “to provide a heads up for folks thinking about travelling into avalanche terrain in New Hampshire and Vermont.”

“Avalanches are common occurrences on Mt. Washington during the winter and early spring months of the year; and winter travellers should heed the avalanche warnings posted by the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center,” according to the avalache center. “Winter travelers are encouraged to have taken an avalanche course; and be properly equipped with avalanche safety equipment that includes an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel at all times when travelling through avalanche terrain.”

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