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September 20, 2013

Hiker dies from fall while descending Mount Washington

The man was with a group of friends Thursday when he wandered off the Tuckerman Ravine trail to get a better look at a waterfall and fill his water bottle.

The Associated Press

PINKHAM NOTCH, N.H. — A 25-year-old hiker from Canada has died after he slipped and fell 150 feet while descending a Mount Washington trail.

Luc Paquette of Boisbriand, Quebec, was with a group of friends Thursday when he wandered off the Tuckerman Ravine trail to get a better look at a waterfall and fill his water bottle, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said. He slipped on the wet terrain and fell, landing on a small ledge about three-quarters of the way up a headwall. A 911 call was made about 5:15 p.m.

A number of people tried to help him Thursday, including a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter that raced up from Concord. It flew in close enough to the ledge to lower a rescue litter, yet stay away from the sheer edge of the headwall in what Fish and Game Sgt. Mark Ober described as a "harrowing display of flying."

Rescue crews, including fellow hikers, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Mountain Rescue Service, Fish and Game and others worked on a small, wet treacherous ledge to treat Paquette and get him onto the helicopter in an attempt to save his life.

The helicopter left the mountain shortly before 8 p.m. and Paquette to Memorial Hospital in Conway, where he was pronounced dead.

The 4.2-mile trail from a visitor's center to the summit is popular, but challenging. At a certain point, the trail turns from wide and rocky to narrow and steep on the ascent.

The Mount Washington Observatory said the steepest and roughest part of the climb ascends the "headwall" of the ravine, an area that is typically wet.

"While thousands travel this trail each year without incident, the trail ascends a cliff, and travel off the trail would bring you over a precipice with disastrous results," the Observatory's website says.

In May 2012, the body of a Massachusetts hiker was recovered from a Mount Washington crevasse. Norman Priebatsch of Boston, 67, lost his footing and fell hundreds of feet into the crevasse while hiking with his son at Tuckerman Ravine on April 1. Rescuers said Priebatsch couldn't have survived the fall, and weather conditions were too treacherous to retrieve him right away.

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