Search for Missing Mt Hood Snowshoer Ends
Updated Friday, March 7, 2003
Portland Mountain Rescue and other volunteers braved extreme weather and
fatigue for more than four days while searching for a Portland man on Mount
Hood. The subject, in his 40's, went missing after a solo snowshoeing
trek Sunday afternoon. Despite the massive effort, no signs of the
subject were found and, on Friday morning, the Clackamas County Sheriff called
off the search.
During the week, nearly 40 PMR members searched the mountain's difficult
terrain from the 11,239 foot summit to Government Camp at 4,000 feet and from
Zigzag Canyon on the Southwest side to White River Glacier on the Southeast
side. Later in the week, a fierce Winter storm limited the search to just
the areas below Timberline Lodge.
The search area for the missing subject
The weather was so bad on Thursday that base operations had to be moved down
the mountain from Timberline Lodge to the Oregon State Police facility in
Over the course of the mission, many volunteers, including members of Corvallis
Mountain Rescue, Eugene Mountain Rescue, Mount Hood Ski Patrol, American
Medical Response Reach and Treat Team, Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue and
Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Explorer Post No. 631, aided PMR in the
massive search area covering well over 13 square miles (see the graphic above
for further details).
Early in the week, a few short breaks in the weather allowed helicopters from
U.S. Army National Guard units in Salem and Pendleton to conduct air
searches. However, clouds enveloping the mountain prevented the UH-60
Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from being effective.
According to the subject's family, the man left Timberline Lodge (at 6,000
feet) on Sunday with the intended destination of the Hogsback, a ridge between
10,400 and 11,000 feet just to the South of the mountain's summit. When
the man did not return to the Lodge Sunday evening, his family alerted the
Sheriff who then mobilized multiple search units.
Several mountain climbers on the South side of Mount Hood reported seeing a man
on snowshoes between 8,000 and 9,000 feet on Sunday afternoon. However,
there was no way to determine the accuracy of the reports. Even with
those leads, overnight snowfall early in the week covered any tracks that may
have been found, making the determination of the subject's whereabouts very
difficult. Copious amounts of snow later in the week further buried any
evidence that may have been on the mountain.
On Monday and Tuesday, PMR searchers combed the upper mountain from the summit
to Triangle Moraine and down White River Glacier. PMR teams also searched
the Paradise Park and Zigzag Canyon areas, just below Mississippi Head on Mount
Hood's Southwest face. At the same time, other volunteers covered much of
the forested areas between Timberline Lodge and the town of Government Camp.
The weather worsened on Wednesday and became extreme on Thursday and Friday, as
a strong jet stream pushed storms directly into Mount Hood. Heavy snow
and hurricane force winds, some measured over 100 MPH, limited the areas that
could be covered, so the search concentrated on the forested areas below
timberline. It was hoped that the subject would have taken shelter in a
tree well to escape the extreme weather; however, no evidence of such a
structure was found.
Evidently, the subject did not have overnight survival gear and was not
carrying any communications devices, such as a cell phone or a Mountain Locator
Unit (MLU) transmitter. A MLU is a device that, when activated, sends a
signal that rescuers can use to help find the subject on Mount Hood. It
is available for a $5 rental fee at Portland-area outdoor shops and the Mount
Without food, water and survival gear, the chances of the man surviving the
harsh conditions over many days was very slim. By Friday afternoon, with
high avalanche conditions and extreme weather continuing on the mountain, the
Sheriff called off the search.
The most probable theory at this time is that the man fell into a canyon or
triggered an avalanche while descending the mountain in whiteout conditions on
Teams will search again in the Spring when the snow melts and provides an
opportunity to thoroughly cover the canyons and remote areas where the subject
may be located.