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Mt Hood - Fall - South Side, Standard Route

June 17, 2006

Note: As the first-hand account makes clear, this involved three parties stacked up below/above each other. Fortunately the two lower ones were able to hold their self-arrest and did not fall. A very similar accident happened in 2002 with a more severe outcome - three parties fell to the Bergshrund, three climbers died, and a rescue helicopter ended up crashing as well. This highlights the fact that a key problem/danger on this route is multiple parties climbing above/below each other. This is compounded by the fact that many parties on this route are inexperienced.

First-Hand Account posted on CascadeClimbers
Posted by "Glenn" aka "Slog"

Climb: Hood accident-
Date of Climb: 6/17/2006

Trip Report:

The weather cleared about 9pm Friday the 16 just as predicted. However; instead of partly cloudy it was crystal clear, colder and windier than predicted. This made for easy travel all the way to the Hogsback. Just before the Hogsback we noticed that things got very icy. We roped up and went around the burgshrund to the right. Immediately we were pelted with oblong ice cubes about the size of the first 2 knuckles of my pointing finger. Thousands of them showering down like a broken chandelier coming down the chutes from the Pearly Gates. This would stop and start with the wind above and continued to the summit. You had to keep your eyes down so they would hit the helmet. There was hardly any crampon purchase and the Mountain appeared to have a clear coat of very sharp ice. Stopping a fall or self arrest seemed rather unlikely, great care not to fall seemed like the best answer. I was wondering if there was a better way down. This was manageable going up but the descent was heavy on my mind.

We Summitted without mishap and there were about 15 people on top, mostly two large guided groups. These groups actually opted to use a belayed down climb to the west It took them a long time but was safe.

Jon, Carl and I headed down. There were a few butterflies in my stomach knowing what was ahead. I decided that I would use a ski pole in my lower hand and ice ax in the upper mountain side and always have 3 points of contact with the slope. Painfully slow as it was I believe it was the safest way for me to go. After much anxiety we made it past the bergshrund and to the Hogsback where we rested and watched the other teams behind us.

It gets a little foggy here but we were watching our other rope team of three come down. Jesse slipped; Doug and Wayne were able to arrest the fall. Around that same time a lower team slid and was able to arrest. It’s a serious thing to watch your friends dug in face down on an icy slope ropes taunt between everyone. No one moved for the longest time. There was nothing to do to help. Slowly people started to get to their feet and just then a group high above them peels off the mountain. Picket, crampons and ice axes flying towards my friends. They hit my buddies at maximum velocity and everyone moved but miraculously my friends stayed in there arrest position as I watched the 3 man team from above fall over 500 feet bouncing and flailing like rag dolls. Luckily they missed the crevasse at the bergshrund and slowly came to rest in the Devils kitchen. Two guys in rescue jackets were off in a flash, they had been sitting next to me. They attended the totally still team of three. There was much confusion higher up. They could not just jump up and we could not just go assist them. Three experienced teams had just fallen. Jon, Carl and I waited with much anxiety as teams slowly got up and seemed ok. Jesse, Jon’s father was up there. The two rescue guys were attending the fallen 3 and our guys arrived eventually arrived at the Hogsback. Jesse held out a frayed rope!(see the video clip at katu.com) The rope had either been severed or broke under the impact. Jesse hugged his son Jon and wept.

Knowing our team was safe Carl Jon and I ran down to assist with the others. There was blood everywhere. Doug later said that from the Hogsback he thought someone had wanded the crash site with red flags. It was blood. The faces of the 3 were unrecognizable caked with drying blood. We helped in whatever ways the more medically experience people asked us to do, holding heads still, keeping them warm, boiling water anything. Before long there were quite a few people around many with medical experience. One of our guys seemed to be in shock. We helped him and did what we could. The helicopter was not going to come for a long time. I asked if they were able to drink water. A completely blood encrusted face stuck a tongue out. The medic nodded yes so I poured some warm water in and could tell he needed more I gave him a little more and said “I’ve been praying for you”. I was very shocked to hear “thanks I’ve been praying too”. Surprisingly he asked where do you go to church. I told him and we talked. I knew he would be ok. I went to the most severely injured and he also wanted water but I was a little worried because he was so bad off, he had broken bones, his helmet was shattered so probable head injuries and numerous other issues. I wet his lips with some water and them he opened his mouth for more. I gave him warm water. This was all very disturbing. I put my down jacket on the other one who was now sitting and shivering.

There was plenty of help around now so we decided to leave. We left contact info with the rescue workers to get our gear back that they still needed. We headed down. Wayne and Jesse admitted to being quite traumatized and were acting strange. We kept a close eye on them. Jesse ended up going ahead of us later explained that he was overcome with emotion and wanted to weep in private.

One last note. After the morning’s events I was emotionally spent. I had stashed skis 2.5 miles from the lodge and was looking forward to skiing down to the car. Jesse beat me there and in being the nice guy he is he unburied both Doug’s and my skis. One of mine fell over and skied off into oblivion down into a glacial moraine. We all walked the last 2.5 mile together.

Two Rescued After Mount Hood Fall
Injured Climbers Airlifted By National Guard Helicopter After 500-Foot Fall

PORTLAND, Ore., June 19, 2006

(CBS/AP) Two climbers were rescued Saturday by a National Guard helicopter crew after they were injured in a 500-foot fall near the top of Mount Hood. Aaron Dunlop, 31, of Newberg, Ore., and Jeremy Hawkins, 32, of Tigard, Ore., were in fair condition at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, officials said.

A third climber in the party, Brad Wood, about 30, of Tigard, walked off the 11,240-foot mountain, the highest peak in Oregon and a popular destination for Pacific Northwest climbers.

Wood said the team's anchor came loose. "I was in the lead so I was the highest up and I just I got a hard tug on the rope at my waist," Wood told CBS affiliate KOIN-TV. "It was attached to my waist and it pulled me off balance. I tried to self-arrest but couldn't."

Both Hawkins and Dunlop were drifting in and out of consciousness as rescuers arrived. But both appeared to be alert as they awaited the helicopter. "There were three people that were basically all entwined in their climbing rope. Two of the people were bleeding quite profusely. It was a mess at first," Erik Broms said on CBS News' The Early Show. "We kind of all ended up in a pile at the bottom of the glacier there," said Wood. Broms estimated it as about 500 feet from the summit.

It was the first sunny day in Oregon after a long stretch of cloudy and rainy June weather, and ice coated the snow. It was too icy for the trio to brake or halt their slide with their climbing equipment.

The injured climbers were among three parties headed for the summit Saturday morning. The lead party fell backward, hitting a second party, and the mass of climbers then fell into a third party, according to Detective Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County sheriff's office, the lead agency in Mount Hood rescues.

There were about 40 people on the mountain at the time, a smaller number than usual for the time of year.

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Oregon Army National Guard's 1042nd Medical Company with a crew of five, including a medic, handled the rescue on Saturday, said Kay Fristad, National Guard spokeswoman. She said the Guard rescue team has been busy as the summer climbing season arrives.

Dunlap had a broken jaw and cuts from the ice across his entire body, reports KOIN's Alana Adams. Hawkins had a broken ankle, nose and fractured vertebrae. The slope was extremely sharp, and so they suffered from pretty good cuts and bruises on the way down.

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