Its sadly ironic that I just wrote an article about this very thing yesterday. My condolences to Scott Powers family. Click this link to read a very descriptive article about this unfortunate tragedy.
What happened to Powers? When I climbed Mt. Washington last month it took about 4.5 hours to make the summit and 2.5 hours to down climb (climb back down). Apparently something happened to Powers that caused him to do his descent at night which is incredibly dangerous. My guess is that he became lost, wandered too far to the right of the trail he was supposed to be on, (Tuckermans) slipped over the ravine edge and slid down a nearly vertical 800 foot ravine wall. I climbed past that very ravine and its gigantic.
Its always easy to second guess a mountaineering catastrophe but it seems that Powers may have been a bit under-prepared for a dangerous winter solo ascent. But then again maybe he wasn’t. Mt. Washington is not “tall” by big mountain standards but its very steep. You gain over 4,400 feet of vertical elevation in only four miles of climbing. It’s simply not practical to carry everything you think you might need. You’d end up having a pack of 50 pounds and never be able to hump that shit to the top. You have to make practical trade offs. The writer of the article that I linked to ponders the question of whether Powers had a bivouac tent and stove to melt snow to make water. Holy hell how much gear was the guy supposed to take with him on a day climb?
The most important piece of equipment that a climber can bring with him on a climb is his mind. I was talking to a friend of mine last week about taking him on a summit attempt of Mt. Washington with me. I explained to him that even If we are in sight of the summit and conditions are too dangerous to continue we would turn around. His response was “hell no, I’d keep going”. It’s that exact mind set that can get you killed on a mountain. A good climber knows when enough is enough and abandons a summit attempt. I’ll quote one of my mountaineering idols Ed Viesturs “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory”.
Scott Powers if you can hear me in heaven I’m sad that you died on the mountain, but much respect for going out like a badass…peace!
p.s. I’ll be doing my own winter solo attempt on Mt. Washington next month. WAR!!!