GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. (AP) — Rescuers reached more than a half-dozen climbers stranded by tumbling rocks and falling ice on Oregon’s tallest peak before expected heavy snow makes conditions even more treacherous. One climber fell to his death earlier Tuesday.
At least seven climbers were stranded high on the peak and one of them was hurt, said Sgt. Brian Jensen, a Clackamas County sheriff’s office spokesman. That injury was not life-threatening.
Rescuers made it up to the climbers at about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday at 10,500-foot (3,200-meter) elevation and assessed them before starting down the mountain. Rescuers were assisting four climbers while three other climbers were making their way down the mountain without assistance, according to the sheriff’s office.
Mount Hood, a peak notorious for loose ice and rocks in warm weather, is a popular climbing site that has seen dozens of accidents and fatalities over the years. Thousands climb it each year, mostly in the spring.
The climber who died fell about 1,000 feet (304 meters) and KOIN-TV reported that video taken from a helicopter showed other climbers performing CPR on the man before he was airlifted by an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter to a hospital. He was later declared dead. Authorities have not released his identity.
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,” Gubele said. “It sounds like the conditions up there are very unsafe right now.”
Climbers used their cellphones to report that conditions were hazardous and described the falling rocks and ice “like a bowling alley,” said Air Force Maj. Chris Bernard of the 304th Rescue Squadron.
The stuck climbers were on or near the Hogsback area near the summit of the 11,240-foot (3,429-meter) mountain east of Portland.
Jensen said the climbers have food and water to last a day but needed to get off the mountain because of the winter storm expected early Wednesday.
“It’s going to get darker, it’s going to get colder, it’s going to get windier and the overall conditions will worsen at night,” Jensen said. “We are trying to do everything we can to get everyone down safely before that hits.”
Authorities were using a helicopter and ground crews to try to aid the stranded people.
Wyatt Peck, 26, said he started to go up the mountain Tuesday, but turned around. 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.
Peck said others in his climbing group continued, and he’s concerned that they are 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.”
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.” he said.
DuBois reported from Portland, Oregon.