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Climber dies in 1,000ft fall as weather turns treacherous on Oregon’s Mount Hood

World News | Published:

Rescuers managed to reach other stranded climbers at 10,500ft (3,200m) and assessed them before starting down the mountain.

One climber fell to his death and several others had to be rescued after conditions turned treacherous on the tallest peak in Oregon in the US.

More than half a dozen people had been climbing near Mount Hood’s peak when a climber fell about 1,000ft (305m) said Sergeant Brian Jensen, spokesman for Clackamas County sheriff’s office.

“One of the guys slipped,” said climber Quinn Talley, of Welches, Oregon, who had been descending after reaching the summit on Tuesday morning.

“At first he was just sliding and, right before he disappeared, he started cartwheeling.”

Mr Talley, who said he has climbed the mountain about 20 times and has never seen worse conditions, said he tried to reach the man, but the ice was too dangerous.

“Normally, you like a frozen crust on snow so your crampons don’t ball up with snow, but this is different,” he said.

“With the rain and freeze cycles, there’s something called rime ice … and it’s really loose and normally it’s just fluffy. But these were like dinner plates, hard ice dinner plates.”

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KOIN-TV reported that video taken from a helicopter showed other climbers performing CPR on the man before he was airlifted to hospital by an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter. He was later declared dead. Authorities have not released his identity.

Mount Hood Rescue
11,240ft (3,429m) Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest peak (Gillian Flaccus/AP))

The sun has been out this week and the temperature was around freezing at the spot where the climber fell, said Russell Gubele, of Mountain Wave Search and Rescue.

“This is the kind of weather conditions and the time of year where you often get falling ice, falling rocks and problems,” he added. “It sounds like the conditions up there are very unsafe right now.”

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Climbers used their mobile phones to report that conditions were hazardous and described the falling rocks and ice “like a bowling alley”, said Air Force Major Chris Bernard of the 304th Rescue Squadron.

The stranded climbers were on or near the Hogsback area close to the the summit of the 11,240ft (3,429m) mountain east of Portland.

Rescuers managed to reach the other climbers on Tuesday afternoon at 10,500ft (3,200m) and assessed them before starting down the mountain.

Two climbers who were in the same party as the man who fell were guided down the mountain to a snow tractor, which took them to Timberline Lodge at 6,000ft (1,829m). Rescuers used a sledge and a rope system to bring down a woman in the party who said she was unable to move.

Steve Rollins, of Portland Mountain Rescue, said the woman arrived at the Timberline Lodge just before 8pm.

“It was very hard to move under these types of conditions and she was very brave and very stoic during her evacuation,” he said of the woman who was rescued, adding that she was able to get out of the snow tractor under her own power.

Three other climbers made their way down the mountain without assistance, according to the sheriff’s office.

Wyatt Peck, 26, said he started to go up the mountain on Tuesday, but turned round.

He said the conditions were so treacherous that he and a friend could not get their pickaxes and crampons into the snow that was melting from a hard freeze overnight.

Mr Peck said others in his climbing group continued, and he was concerned that they were among those stranded.

“I saw, like I said, a lot of people were struggling traversing,” he said. “I think they just got to the summit and were so exhausted they didn’t know what to do to get back down – and that’s the hardest part, to get back down.”

Mr Peck said climbers must know when to abandon a summit attempt.

“The mountain’s always going to be there – your life’s not worth it.”

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