PMR Rescues Unprepared Climber From Mount Hood
Monday, August 27, 2001
Portland Mountain Rescue extricated an unprepared climber from Mount Hood's
White River Glacier at an elevation of 8,500 feet. The climber, a
Missouri resident in Portland visiting family, had been stranded on the
glacier after a near-disastrous descent of Oregon's tallest peak.
A Sno-Cat driver grooming that part of Timberline's Palmer ski slopes
happened to stop his rig and turn off the engine, allowing the driver
to hear the stranded climber yelling for help. The Ski Patrol
was called in to assess the situation and contacted the Clackamas
Country Sheriff to organize a rescue. 17 members of Portland
Mountain Rescue responded to Timberline Lodge for the twilight mission.
The situation followed several classic themes of mountaineering
accidents in the Pacific Northwest's Cascade Range mountains.
The climber was wearing shoes and clothing that were not suitable
for the unpredictable alpine conditions on 11,239-foot Mount Hood.
He also did not have the proper mountaineering gear, such as an ice
axe and crampons, that would have helped achieve a safe descent.
To make matters worse, he was on the mountain alone, did not sign the
climber's register and failed to inform friends where he would be and
when he would return.
Insufficient equipment, climbing alone and failure to register are
common threads in mountaineering accidents.
Evidently, the climber had spent the past few days climbing the Cooper
Spur route on the North Side of the mountain, summitting early on
Monday. He attempted to reach Timberline Lodge using the standard
South Side route. However, tackling that route is treacherous
during the Summer and Fall months and he apparently fell into the large
crevasse known as the Bergschrund at the 10,500-foot mark on Mount Hood.
Due to the drought in the Pacific Northwest, the crevasse had a side
opening and the climber literally walked out, though a bit battered and
bruised. His troubles were not over, though, as he wandered onto
the White River Glacier and became stranded in the late morning.
Fortunately, the Sno-Cat driver later made his unexpected stop and was
able to hear the climber in distress.
His precarious location forced PMR rescuers to remove him from danger
using a stretcher-like "rescue litter". After getting
the victim and all rescuers safely off the glacier, the injured climber
was taken to Timberline Lodge and a waiting ambulance using the one of
the Sno-Cats. Amazingly, except for minor leg and hand contusions
and some dehydration, his injuries were mostly superficial.
This was a happy ending to what could very well have been a body recovery.
Falling into a crevasse can easily be fatal and becoming stranded alone in
alpine conditions without the proper equipment can quickly result in death by
exposure. Without the chance discovery by the Sno-Cat driver, the
rescued climber could well have lost his life.