For the third time in five days, emergency crews have been summoned to Mount Hood to rescue a climber in distress.
The latest call for help came on the evening of Jan. 26, after a man attempting to snowboard back down the Hogsback snow ridge after climbing to the mountain’s summit lost control and plunged several hundred feet into a volcanic vent.
The climber, identified as 28-year-old George Stevens from Idaho, landed at the bottom of the cavity, also called a fumarole, which emits hot, toxic gases. Stevens survived but sustained serious injuries.
Two friends who made the ascent with Stevens managed to call 911. The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office led the response and deployed more than 20 rescuers from the Hood River Crag Rats team and Portland Mountain Rescue.
One of those volunteers, equipped with a respirator and gas-level monitors, was lowered to Stevens around midnight. The team stabilized the man and hoisted him to the surface, where they loaded him into a litter. Stevens was then lowered down steep ice slopes by rope to the top of the Palmer Ski lift, loaded onto a Sno-Cat and driven to a waiting ambulance at the Timberline Lodge parking lot.
Before that incident, the sheriff’s office got a call last weekend from a Eugene man who became stranded at Hood’s summit because his equipment failed. That individual was climbing alone. Luckily, two members of the Crag Rats—the country’s oldest search and rescue organization—were already near the top of the mountain on their own climbing expedition. They also used ropes to lead him back down, though the descent was easier since the man was uninjured.
Volunteers and the sheriff’s office say they’ve noticed a commonality between many of the recent rescues: People are unprepared for the conditions. Over the past week, crews have observed too many heading up without proper equipment, often starting their trek too late in the day as well.
Though it is one of the most-climbed peaks in the world, outdoor enthusiasts must keep in mind that Hood is a technical ascent. Anyone who attempts to reach the summit should have gear like crampons and an ice ax. Navigation and mountaineering skills are also needed.
Interested beginners are advised to hire a guide or seek training from an established climbing club. And always begin the outing early in the morning to avoid running into trouble after dark.