GORP 2/18/05

Posted 02/18/2005 04:04 PM

One Woman's Historic Tumble on Mt. Washington's Huntington Ravine

Pipe smoking was not a common pastime among females in 1933. Neither was heading off to the mountains for hiking and rock climbing trips. Unless of course, you were Jesse Whitehead---a woman ahead of her time, and master of all things adventurous.

Whitehead, a Cambridge, Mass., resident, we beyond eccentric. Often seen with a tobacco-laden pipe dangling from her lips, she navigated Harvard Square in much the same way she did in the White Mountains---with assuredness and ease.

But swaggering confidence, climbing ability, and expertise do not guarantee smooth scaling along Mount Washington's walls. And Whitehead was no exception.

According to Appalachia, Whitehead and Walter Sturges had taken a 400-500 foot dive in Huntington Ravine, with Whitehead landing an extra 100 feet below Sturges. Miss Whitehead was terribly cut about the head.

Stitch Callendaer witnessed the accident (his friend stayed with the victims) and took off to gather Joe Dodge at Pinkham Notch Camp for help. He ran into Brad Washburn who fashioned a stretcher out of spruce poles and carried her out to Dr. Harold Schedd in North Conway. She made a marvelous recovery.

Her descent down Huntington Ravine (headfirst) secured her place in the Appalachian Mountain Club's history books, and exemplifies how quickly situations can change in the White Mountains.