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After the Fall
Andrew Nemethy
December 09, 1991
A tragic accident on Mount Washington left the survivor groping to understand the death of his climbing partner
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December 09, 1991

After The Fall

A tragic accident on Mount Washington left the survivor groping to understand the death of his climbing partner

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The avalanche that hit Huntington Ravine that day may have been the result of a freak convergence of several factors. Though only 2.5 inches of snow were recorded atop the peak that day, the Mount Washington Observatory clocked winds gusting as high as 139 mph the day before and 74 mph on the day of the climb. Those winds may have scoured snow off the peak and piled it above the gully. The snow that fell on Sunday, or perhaps the wind, may have been all it took to trigger the avalanche that cascaded down on the two climbers.

Huntsman spent five days in Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, N.H., his battered body turning every color of the rainbow. The accident also left him emotionally battered, and healing those wounds has taken much longer. Nine months later, though the rescue crews agreed he and Smith had done everything right and that no one was to blame, he is still struggling to sort through the emotions and guilt he feels.

In May, Huntsman made a somber and solitary pilgrimage to Huntington Ravine to memorialize his friend and search for some of their belongings. Strewn across the ancient rocks of the ravine beneath Odell's Gully, scattered like snapshots of two lives, he found crampons, his driver's license and parts of his wallet, Smith's goggles, an ice screw, a mitten and pieces of rope.

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