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Mt. Hood climber badly injured by summer rockfall

PMR Assists Climber Injured by Rockfall Near the Sandy Glacier
June 28, 2009

On Sunday, June 28, 2009, two climbers were ascending Mt. Hood by the Sandy Glacier Headwall route when a falling rock struck one of them on the upper leg, fracturing his femur. The injured climber's partner moved him to a safer location, left him with food, gear and water, and headed toward the Timberline ski area in search of help. En route, he encountered a member of Portland Mountain Rescue, who notified the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and initiated a formal PMR mission.

Fortunately for the injured climber, the Mountain Rescue Association was celebrating its 50th anniversary with meetings and training session at Timberline Lodge that weekend, so numerous PMR volunteers – and the unit's truck laden with rescue gear – were already nearby.

Supplemented by volunteers from other mountain rescue teams from across the continent, the PMR-led rescue team, including two past presidents of the national association, quickly set up a base at Lolo Pass. One field team immediately began climbing toward the injured climber. A Black Hawk helicopter from the Oregon National Guard's 1042nd Medical Evacuation Company then became available and leapfrogged a second team of four rescuers, with medical and evacuation gear, directly to the 9,000' elevation. That team reached the patient at about 12:15 pm. Together with an American Medical Response ("AMR") Reach-And-Treat paramedic and an Army medic from the helicopter's crew, they stabilized the patient, applied a traction splint to his injured leg, and secured him into a litter. The patient and the two medics then were hoisted by cable into the hovering helicopter, which delivered the patient safely to Legacy Emanuel Hospital at approximately 2:00 pm.

Once the patient had been evacuated, the PMR teams gathered their gear, cleaned the area, and descended the mountain on foot via the Sandy Glacier, Timberline Trail, and Top Spur Trail, reporting safely back to base by 7 pm.

The Sandy Glacier Headwall route, like all steeper headwall routes on Mt. Hood, deteriorates rapidly in quality at the end of Spring.As large, unstable rock cliffs become exposed, the route and access traverse around Yocum Ridge can become dangerously exposed to rockfall, particularly in the morning when the sun first hits the cliffs near the summit. This is not the first serious rockfall incident in this location. A month or two earlier, these climbers would have experienced better snow conditions, faster travel, better opportunities for protection, and less rockfall -- and this accident would have been much less likely to occur. June finds most of the intermediate to advanced climbs on Mt. Hood to be "out of condition," requiring climbing parties to be willing to count on a bit of luck to avoid objective hazards like the rockfall that injured the climber here.



What can climbers learn from this tragic event?

Steve Rollins helps make the point that the objective dangers of soft snow and rock fall on warming slopes in the summer may make the risks too high for the rewards of a local summit. This increased risk from warming snow slopes is the same during all of the seasons, but summer puts the climber face to face with soft snow footing and skipping rocks whistling past, not to mention slough avalanches and major releases and rockfall.

Mt. Hood is said to be "out of condition" in the summer. Ramps of winter snow blown over the top of ridges and summit are replaced by steep walls of rotten ice at the Pearly Gates on the south side Standard Route.

There are several accidents reported on this website caused by rock fall and sliding warming summer slopes. Read More below for information about some of the objective hazards of climbing volcanic cones.
--Webmeister Speik


A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to plan for the unexpected.  Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged cell phone and inexpensive walkie-talkie radios. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essentials Systems" in a day pack sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or move around your marked location to stay warm. Do not try to find your way until you are exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated


Read more
Mount Hood - Fatal ice fall below the Pearly Gates during warming winter weather
Mount Hood - Fatal rock fall on the Elliot Headwall during summer conditions
Mt. Rainier -  Fatality from falling rock in summer conditions
North Sister - Climbers swept by avalanche while descending Thayer Glacier Snowfield
North Sister - AAC Report of fatal fall from east side by Martina Testa
Mount Hood - Climber injured by falling ice, rescued by helicopter
Mount Hood - Avalanche proves fatal for member of Mazamas climbing group
Mount Hood - Final Report to the American Alpine Club on the loss of three climbers in December 2006
Mount Hood - Veteran climber injured during ice axe arrest on Mt Hood

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Final Report to the American Alpine Club on the loss of three climbers on Mount Hood in December 2006
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
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Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
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 Carboration and Hydration
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What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

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