SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

January 19, 2013

Amputee vet hurt in NH avalanche was raising money

CONCORD, N.H. — An avalanche has halted an attempt by a retired Marine and amputee to climb the Northeast’s highest peak, but if his past comments are any indication, he’ll likely try again.

Retired Sgt. Keith Zeier was in the hospital yesterday, a day after he and two fellow climbers were injured in an avalanche on Mount Washington. The climb was part of a project called “Ascents of Honor” and was the latest of several grueling challenges the 26-year-old has taken on to raise awareness and money for the families of special operations forces killed or wounded in action.

“In the middle of anything that is difficult, we have the option of quitting, slowing down, or changing course. My life has been about ignoring that option,” Zeier wrote last month on the Ascents of Honor blog.

According to an update on the group’s Facebook page, Zeier was part of a 12-member crew trying to reach the 6,288-foot summit Thursday evening when a slab avalanche broke loose and swept three climbers to the bottom of Huntington Ravine. Zeier and the other injured climbers were able to slowly make their way to rescuers who assisted them off the mountain, the group said.

“While this is certainly not the outcome we had hoped for, we are thankful that all in our party are safely off the mountain,” wrote Thom Pollard, the project’s head cameraman.

One of the injured climbers, J.P. Politz, was released from the hospital yesterday. His father, Andy, also was injured; his condition was not available. Zeier’s mother said yesterday morning she had not yet spoken to her son but his doctors said his prognosis was promising, and a nurse told her he was resting comfortably in stable condition.

Denise Zeier said the episode brought back memories of her son’s injuries in Iraq in 2006. When she heard there had been an avalanche, “I knew. I just knew it was going to be him,” she said.

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