On May 13, 2014, a 57-year old priest from New Jersey fell from the summit ridge on Mt. Hood when a snow cornice that he was on collapsed. The priest died in the fall. His body came to rest on the north side of the mountain on the lower edge of a large crevasse about 400’ below and southwest of a feature known as the Queen’s Chair. The Hood River County Sheriff’s office requested Portland Mountain Rescue to assist the Crag Rats in recovering the body. The Crag Rats planned and lead the mission. PMR provided technical support and personnel.
Around 1:00 a.m. on the morning of May 21, five PMR rescuers joined a team of Crag Rats at Timberline Lodge and boarded a snow cat that carried them to the top of the Palmer ski lift. From there, the team climbed to the summit and descended Cathedral Ridge to the Queen’s Chair, which they reached around 6:00 a.m. The team assessed snow and rock stability and risks, and then two rescuers descended to the body. These rescuers packaged the body for transport.
At the Queen’s Chair, rescuers built a haul system with ropes and pulleys anchored in to the snow. With this system, they maneuvered the body up and across the mountain face so that it could be lowered down the Sunshine climbing route to a large snow field known as the Snow Dome. They encountered several impediments to moving the body through the steep and crevassed area and did not get the body to the Snow Dome until around 2:00 p.m.
A team of Crag Rats met the body on the Snow Dome and carried it on a toboggan to Bagger’s Point. From there it was transported off the mountain by helicopter.
We offer our condolences to the victim’s family and friends. We urge climbers to remember that the upper portion of Mt. Hood poses many dangers, one of which is unstable snow and rock along the north side of the summit ridge. In this area, climbers should stay off any snow that they are not sure is resting firmly on stable rock.