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Portland Mtn Rescue
P.O. Box 5391
Portland, Oregon
97228-5391

 
Phone:
503-222-PMRU (7678)
 
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Recovery Mission on the Eliot Glacier Headwall
July 28, 2008

Late afternoon on Sunday, July 27th, Portland Mountain Rescue received a call-out from Hood River County Sheriffs Office requesting our assistance with a rescue on the north side of Mt Hood. A 55-year-old man, climbing with his son, had been struck by a rock while descending Cooper Spur after a successful ascent of the Sunshine Route. The impact caused the climber to tumble out of control, off the flank of the Spur, and out of sight over the Eliot Headwall -falling approximately 1000 feet.

Photo of rescuers on the Eliott Glacier on the North side of Mt. Hood, Oregon. 
Courtesy of Steve Rollins.

PMR members began assembling at Cloud Cap Inn at 8:30 pm. At the same time, a fixed-wing aircraft was conducting a search of the upper Eliot and the Headwall. The pilot and observer were able to identify with some confidence where the climber had come to rest -at the base of a vertical waterfall, about 80 feet from the Eliot Glacier. Confirmation of the location was provided after dark by a helicopter from the Oregon National Guard 1042nd Medical Company equipped with a powerful spotlight. This flight also determined that the man was probably deceased.

At approximately 2:45 am, two PMR teams, each accompanied by a member of the Crag Rats (Hood River Search and Rescue), entered the field. The rescue teams were to stage a team at an area above the fallen climber and another team below on the Eliot Glacier. The rescue team below encountered a large bergschrund, decomposing snow ramps, and was exposed to high amounts of rock fall. Because of these hazardous conditions the lower team aborted their efforts to reach the fallen climber's body. At around 8:00 am the upper team began lowering a rescuer from the Crag Rats down to the body. Natural rock fall at the time was minimal, but rock fall induced by operations was still a factor. Unfortunately, the 300-foot ropes fell short of reaching the slotted waterfall where the subject had come to rest. The rescuer was raised back up, options were considered, and a request was put in for delivery of a 600-foot rope.

Because of lack of time and available personnel to carry the heavy rope package up the mountain, the 1042nd was recruited again, but this time to perform a basket drop. This was accomplished in the early afternoon. At around 3:00 pm, using the longer rope, the upper team was successful at lowering a rescuer down to reach the fallen climber's body. The subject was attached to the lowering system and then both the subject and rescuer were lowered the rest of the way down to the glacier. This process took several hours due to the difficult terrain and tediousness of navigating around obstacles on the mountain, but eventually the rescuers were able to get the subject down onto the Eliot Glacier.

The lower team packaged the subject into a litter and began moving down the glacier at around 5:30 pm. Additional volunteers from PMR, Multnomah County and Klickatat County SAR met the convoy where the trail leaves the glacier and climbs the moraine. The subject was then ferried down the remainder of the mountain on a wheeled litter arriving at Cloud Cap around 8:45 pm.  

Mt Hood's Sunshine and Cooper Spur routes, although fun and challenging, are best achieved earlier on in the season when there is the appropriate amount of snow coverage to help minimize hazardous rock fall. If attempting these, along with all the various climbing routes on the mountain, later in the season, it is best to begin at an early hour when temperatures are colder and to have alternate descent plans in mind in case route conditions are different from expected. Also it is strongly encouraged to wear the proper climbing safety equipment.

 

 

2001- Portland Mountain Rescue
P.O. Box 5391
Portland, Oregon  97228-5391
 
Phone: 503.222.PMRU (7678)
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