As the fumaroles at Hot Rocks and Devils Kitchen melt out earlier this year, PMR urges climbers to be wary of holes and weak cavities in the snow above fumarole areas. The Oregonian, KGW and NBC provided great coverage of this issue.
Lost Hiker on Mt. Hood near Mississippi Head
January 10, 2015
On January 10, the subject, a middle-aged man, was hiking above Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. He intended to hike to Silcox Hut and planned to return to Timberline Lodge around 6:000 p.m.. The subject was not an experienced hiker and was not well equipped for winter back country travel. He went considerably off course and wandered into the area near Mississippi Head west of Timberline Lodge at about 6700’. Lost, cold and faced with darkness, he called 911.
Around 9:00 p.m. , the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office requested PMR to help locate the subject and help him back to Timberline Lodge. The subject’s cell phone lost battery power, but his coordinates were obtained from his 911 call. There was some question about whether the subject was still traveling or remained near the location of his 911 call. So four search teams from Timberline Pro Ski Patrol, Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue and Portland Mountain Rescue were deployed in an effort to locate him. The PMR team entered the field around 1:00 a.m. on the morning of January 11.
At approximately 2:15 a.m., the Ski Patrol team made voice contact with the subject near the location indicated by his 911 call. He had taken shelter from the wind behind a large rock. They provided him warmer clothing and an ice ax, but progress was very slow due to the snow and ice conditions. When the PMR team returned to base around 3:30 a.m., the deputy in charge assigned them to deliver snow shoes and crampons to the ski patrol team, which they did. The Ski Patrol and PMR teams escorted the subject to Palmer chair lift where a snow cat picked them up and carried them to Timberline Lodge. All teams and the subject were safely out of the field around 7:00 a.m.
PMR often is called to assist hikers or climbers on Mt. Hood who were not properly equipped for their trek. Conditions above tree line on Mt. Hood can change from temperate to cold, wet and windy to raging blizzard in just an hour or two. We encourage all hikers and climbers to prepare for the worst possible conditions and to be equipped to stay out overnight.
Triangle Moraine Rescue Mission
January 7, 2015
Two climbers, a father and son, had climbed the south side of Mt. Hood and were descending near the base of Crater Rock. The surface was icy. Father’s crampons were loose or broken and he lost purchase on the ice. He slipped and slid fast toward Triangle Moraine for about 200 feet. Another climber who witnessed the fall was the first to reach father. He was banged up from hits on the rough ice surface and appeared to have a head injury. The climber and son determined that a rescue was necessary and called 911. They moved father to a location just below Triangle Moraine at about 9500’ elevation.
Around 9:20 a.m., the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office contacted PMR and requested an evacuation. A team of two AMR Reach and Treat medics were first to the scene and worked to stabilize the patient. The first team of four PMR rescuers was in the field by around noon and a snow cat had them to the top of the Palmer around 12:35 p.m.; they reached the patient around 1:05 p.m. They assisted in stabilizing the patient and readied the patient for transport. A second PMR team of four rescuers carrying more gear followed and assisted with transporting the patient.
Weather conditions were favorable, and the evacuation was straight forward. PMR teams turned the patient over to Timberline Ski Patrol at the top of the Palmer lift who skied the litter down to the Timberline parking lot. All rescuers were out of the field at 3:30 p.m.
PMR reminds climbers that Mt. Hood requires technical gear and climbing skill for a safe climb under most conditions. Crampons and boots designed for technical mountaineering are necessary. And make sure your crampons properly fit your boots and are securely attached.
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).
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.
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.
On June 1, 2014, three friends summited Mt. Hood in favorable conditions. On the descent, one of the of climbers, a 36 year-old woman, was overcome with severe abdominal pains. As they descended to the east side of Crater Rock, the pain was too severe for her to move further. Her companions called 911 for emergency assistance. At approximately 11:00 a.m., the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office requested Portland Mountain Rescue to mobilize and evacuate the climber. The CCSO also requested AMR to send its reach and treat team to provide emergency medical care.
Two AMR medics departed Timberline Lodge at approximately 1:30 p.m. The first PMR team of six rescuers left Timberline 15 minutes later with equipment for the evacuation. A second PMR team of 3 rescuers left Timberline Lodge around 2:30 p.m. AMR reached the patient first around 3:45 p.m. and administered emergency care to stabilize her. PMR had the patient packaged and ready to move around 4:30 p.m.
Using a rope belay from snow anchors, PMR rescuers lowered the patient approximately 750 vertical feet. From there, they were able to guide the litter without the need for a rope belay. Due to excellent conditions, PMR delivered the patient to a snow cat at the top of the Palmer lift in only 30 minutes. The snow cat carried the patient to Timberline Lodge where she was loaded into an ambulance for transport to a Portland hospital around 5:45 p.m. She was released from the hospital later that day and has made a full recovery.
This mission is a great reminder that medical emergencies can happen at any time and any place. PMR urges backcountry travelers to always be prepared with food and shelter to survive for at least 24 hours. In this case, the patient was evacuated quickly in less than seven hours. Typically, evacuations from the crater area of Mt. Hood take more than eight hours from the time help is requested. Evacuations from more remote areas or in poor conditions can take much longer.