By Erik Eisele
PINKHAM NOTCH — A Massachusetts hiker was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center early Sunday following a fall and overnight rescue on Mount Washington.
25-year-old Russell Kinkade, of Pembroke, Mass., was off the main trail and trying to descend in Huntington Ravine when he took a 200-foot sliding fall, according to rescuers, with the last 40 feet being completely out of control and ending in a boulder field.
The incident began at about 3 p.m. Saturday, according to a New Hampshire Fish and Game statement. Kinkade and another man he met on the trail, 22-year-old Michael Cox of Kennebunkport, Maine, began ascending the Huntington Ravine headwall several hundred feet uphill of where the marked trail goes.
"They were in Central [Gully]," said climbing guide and Mountain Rescue Service volunteer Craig Taylor, who responded after the call came in. The two were climbing the slabs just right of the prominent northeast-facing wall known as Central Buttress, he said, "just like it was an ice climb."
Cox told Taylor the pair made it almost to the lip of the ravine climbing the slabs, Taylor said. "He said he was only eight or 10 feet from the rim," but Kinkade, who was roughly 50 feet lower, was unable to keep climbing due to the steep terrain.
"They surfed down most of the way," Taylor said, sliding on their butts over the steep slabs, dropping from one stance to the next.
"They did about four controlled falls," Taylor said, but on the final stretch Kinkade lost control. After going the bulk of the distance with his feet facing downhill, Taylor said, Kinkade shot upwards and landed in the rock at the base face first.
The Fish and Game statement said Kinkade fell "approximately 200 feet down the rock slope," and suffered "what appeared to be serious head injuries."
Cox told Taylor, however, the uncontrolled portion of the fall "was only about 40 feet," Taylor said. The impact broke both of Kinkade's arms and smashed his face.
Rescuers began responding at 4 p.m. First on scene were responders from Mount Washington State Park who descended from the summit as conservation officers, Mountain Rescue Service volunteers, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue volunteers, Appalachian Mountain Club responders and other volunteers began hiking up from Pinkham Notch.
Taylor said he and other rescuers were on scene by 7 p.m.
"They were basically at the bottom of Central Gully," he said, leaving rescuers almost 1,000 feet of steep boulders to descend while carrying Kinkade.
The rescue team picked up a rescue litter from the Albert Dow emergency cache at the base of the ravine, packaged Kinkade, then belayed the litter as the team of roughly 30 volunteers passed it over the treacherous terrain.
"It went pretty darn smooth considering," Taylor said.
The rescue continued through the darkness and the rain. As they passed the Harvard Cabin they picked up a wheel that they strapped to the litter to relieve some of the weight, Taylor said. They had enough volunteers to keep cycling fresh people in, he said, and by 2 a.m. they were approaching Pinkham Notch.
Kinkade's injuries prompted a call to DHART, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's emergency response helicopter, which despite poor weather met the team at the road. The Gorham Fire Department cleared a landing zone and he was transported. Kinkade was still being treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock on Monday.