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Avalanche survivor: it felt like ‘the whole earth was moving’

Conor Lodge sensed the avalanche coming, but by then it was too late. Moments later, he and a friend were swept down­hill, plunging 80 feet across rocky ter­rain and tum­bling down another sev­eral hun­dred feet atop the snow.

That was Sat­urday, Dec. 28. Lodge, SSH’14, a fifth-​​year Eng­lish major at North­eastern, was hiking on Mount Wash­ington in New Hamp­shire with his older brother Tristan and two other friends—all of whom hail from Martha’s Vine­yard. As dusk approached, Lodge and his friend Adam hus­tled ahead to reach the summit and return back to the tree line before sunset. Upon their descent, they passed by Tristan and the fourth man, RK, and agreed to wait for them to reach the summit and return to that spot.

Lodge and Herman held out for about 30 min­utes but were com­pelled to slowly make their way back down in the face of dip­ping tem­per­a­tures and whip­ping winds. Along the way, they fol­lowed a set of foot­prints and mis­tak­enly veered onto the incor­rect trail. They soon real­ized this but fig­ured they’d even­tu­ally get down to the bottom. They ven­tured for­ward about 100 yards through snow one to two feet deep, with vis­i­bility as low as only 10 feet ahead as the intense winds blew snow every­where. That’s when it happened.

“I remember the horizon of snow in front of me. It felt like a tec­tonic plate shifting, like the whole earth was moving,” Lodge said. He doesn’t remember much of the next half hour, though he recalls hurting his left leg while sticking it out toward a large rock to brace his fall. And he’s sure he hit his head at least once; later at a local hos­pital, he was diag­nosed with a brain bruise.

Both men lost their boot spikes and ice axes in the fall. Tristan and RK even­tu­ally found them and went to get help. Five and a half hours later, two res­cuers arrived and waited with them for two more hours until four more appeared and brought them back down to safety.

As they waited for help, Lodge drew on his yoga expe­ri­ence to help focus his breathing and keep the blood flowing. He and Adam also kept talking to keep the other awake and alert.

Though Lodge’s dizzi­ness sub­sided a few days after the ordeal, his leg con­tinues to ache and it’s still painful to bend or walk on it. Prior to a phone inter­view to dis­cuss his expe­ri­ence, Lodge was taking an ice bath to help reduce lin­gering inflammation.

A life­long Vine­yarder, the senior is an out­doorsman at heart. He’s a member of the North­eastern Sailing Team and also wind­surfs in his spare time. While he said this expe­ri­ence hasn’t scared him away from hiking or other out­doors activ­i­ties, he’s deter­mined to be more cautious.

He regretted that the four­some split up during the hike and expressed his grat­i­tude to the res­cuers for risking their own lives to save him. “If not for them I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

“I was very lucky to have sur­vived and with so few injuries,” he added. “I’m no longer afraid of little things in life that we con­stantly worry about. This has made me more appre­cia­tive of life. I realize how easily it can slip away.”

-By Greg St. Martin

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