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Surviving an Avalanche

Avalanche survivor speaks about getting caught in the slide in Tuckerman Ravine Sunday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016)

    One of the five people caught in an avalanche in Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine Sunday is sharing his survival story.

    Corey Swartz is hoping to impact other adventurers who plan to visit the White Mountains this winter.

    "Do not go into the Whites unprepared and make sure you have the tools, the knowledge, and the know-how to keep you and your party safe," Swartz told NECN over the phone Tuesday.

    When the rumbling snow finally settled in Tuckerman Ravine, Swartz couldn't believe he wasn't trapped.

    "That is my worst fear, 'oh my goodness, my friends are buried underneath there,' that was my first thought," he said.

    Swartz and his friend had just tumbled more than a football field and a half down the ravine in an avalanche triggered by two skiers who were also swept away.

    "Just completely and utterly at the mercy of what's going on around you," Swartz recalled. "Luckily, the four of us were on top of the slide and did not get completely buried."

    Swartz admits he made a critical mistake when he decided to climb without his avalanche kit. He says he had no shovel, no probe, and he wasn't wearing a beacon. If Swartz had become buried the beacon, or transponder, is what would have allowed other climbers find him.

    Climbing instructor David Lottmann was leading an avalanche safety course in the ravine Sunday, when suddenly his six students were getting real-life experience, just feet away from the snow's path.

    "My first thought was, 'we are going to have people buried in the avalanche with no beacons on,'" he said. "It was definitely a heart pounding moment."

    No one was buried and two people suffered only minor injuries. Lottmann wants this story to encourage visitors to heed avalanche warnings, carry the proper gear, and know how to use it.

    "It's three days out of your life to take an avalanche course, probably one of the most important things you can do, so you can go out, have fun, and come home safe," Lottmann said.

    Swartz, a Plymouth, New Hampshire resident, has climbed all over the world yet learned the most powerful lesson from the peaks in his backyard.

    "It's pretty scary out there and you have to fully respect these mountains," he said.

    You can learn more about avalanche safety courses at www.avtraining.org or at www.emsoutdoors.com

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