A snow ranger who worked to dig a skier out of an avalanche on Mount Washington heard him moaning from beneath the snow and eventually determined he was in a seated position with his lower legs and feet buried about 6 feet down, a report said.
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center in New Hampshire released its report Monday on efforts to save Nicholas Benedix, 32, who died on April 11. The avalanche was one of at least four human-triggered avalanches on the mountain that day. A moderate avalanche danger was forecast Tuesday, with new snow and wind building new slabs through the day.
The avalanche affecting Benedix happened at about noon that day. Faint ski tracks seen shortly before 2 p.m. and a beacon led the ranger, Frank Carus, to Benedix in an area on the Northeast's highest peak called the Raymond Cataract.
Carus cleared snow from Benedix's face and freed an arm. In addition to the snow depth, digging also was hindered by an ice block, the need to keep snow from collapsing along the edge of the hole, and a branch near Benedix's legs, the report said.
Rangers freed Benedix and administered CPR. He was brought down the mountain to a medical helicopter, but despite advanced life support measures, he died.
The report noted that Benedix had taken many of the steps to stay safe. "He had an avalanche education under his belt, he carried a ski repair kit, extra layers, plenty of water, and a first aid and survival kit," it said. "He was wearing a beacon and carrying a probe and shovel. Unfortunately, no one was watching from a safe location while he skied the slope, ready to rescue him before time ran out."