Crater Rock Rescue

On October 3, 2014, a 27 year-old male visiting from St. Louis set out from Timberline Lodge to climb Mt. Hood. The day was clear and unseasonably warm, and the individual was wearing only gym shorts, a T-shirt and running shoes. He had with him a warm hat and an insulated jacket. He had very limited climbing experience.

On his way up the mountain, he encountered a Chris Carter, a climber who was descending. Mr. Carter observed that the subject was lightly equipped. He exchanged cell phone numbers with the subject. He also took a photograph of the subject as he began ascending the southwest gulley on Crater Rock (see below).

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The subject apparently climbed to a point in the gulley where he did not feel he could safely go further up or descend. He eventually called Mr. Carter and explained his predicament. Mr. Carter then called 911 and reported the subject’s call for help and his limited equipment. After the call to Mr. Carter, the subject’s cell phone batteries died.

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Around 6:30 p.m., the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office requested Portland Mountain Rescue to rescue the climber. By 9:15 p.m., a PMR team of five rescuers and two AMR Reach and Treat medics left Timberline. They were transported first by truck and then by snow cat to the top of the Palmer Lift. Under clear skies, they ascended to Crater Rock. Aided by the photographs provided by Mr. Carter and a bright moon, they located the subject. Approaching the subject required climbing in the dark through an area with dangerous rock fall potential. Two rescuers climbed to the subject’s position and reached him around 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

The subject had moved from the gulley to a slightly more secure point and hunkered down behind some old boards he found near the historic engine left many years ago on the mountain. Temperatures were in the low 40’s or high 30’s, so the subject was cold, but had no injuries. The rescuers warmed him with a heating blanket and provided him food, warm clothing, a helmet and a harness. They then helped him around Crater Rock to the standard south side climbing route.

The remaining rescuers rappelled from a point lower on Crater Rock, and the groups reunited below Triangle Moraine. They escorted the subject to the top of the Palmer Lift by 2:30 a.m. and arrived at Timberline Lodge at 3:15 a.m. Saturday morning.

The subject was very fortunate that he encountered Mr. Carter earlier in the day and that Mr. Carter thought to photograph the subject’s position in the southwest gulley on Crater Rock. Otherwise, the subject could have been extremely difficult to locate. The subject is also fortunate that unseasonably warm and fair conditions prevailed through the night.