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Mt. Hood climber killed by icefall in warming weather

Nurse, adventurer and beloved wife
KGW News
By Teresa Blackman and David Krough
January 22, 2009

A female climber was killed and her husband made it down to safety Wednesday after the two were struck by falling ice while climbing Mt. Hood.

Woman killed on Mt Hood Friends and family said the couple was always doing something outdoors and they loved being active.

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Strovink said the two were climbing in the area of the Hogsback and the Pearly Gates when they were hit by "boulder-sized" chunks of ice.

They were identified at 33-year-old Thad Stavn and 31-year-old Brooke Colvin, both from Portland. They were at about 10,000 feet on the 11,239-foot mountain when the accident occurred, Strovink said.

Strovink said Stavn saw his wife hit by falling ice and thrown down the mountain. Strovink said Stavn was able to get to her, but she died instantly. Rescuers were trying to recover the body.

An Oregon Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was originally called to airlift the pair off the mountain, authorities said, but was grounded after one climber was reported dead.

At noon, showers of ice were still falling in the area where the injured climbers were huddling under Crater Rock, along with two other climbers trying to help them.

Stavn made it down safely to Timberline Lodge around 1:30 p.m. and was in the care of search and rescue crews.

Crews used a Snowcat to recover Colvin's body just after sunset.

Colvin and Stavn met in Jackson, Wyo., according to their wedding Web site. Colvin was living with relatives and Stavn was visiting friends after a climbing trip.

They were married Sept. 16, 2007, in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Stavn's father, Rockie Stavn of Bismarck, N.D., told The Oregonian newspaper that the pair moved to Portland shortly before they were married.

"They always were outdoors," Rockie Stavn said. "And Brooke? She was wonderful."

Another climber struck down by falling ice just four days before
On Saturday, another climber was injured near the Hogsback and the Pearly Gates. Michael Lemming said he and a group of friends were chipping at some ice while climbing Saturday morning, when the ice broke and a large chunk hit him. He fell some 200 feet and broke both legs.
More: Climber recovering at OHSU

KGW Meteorologist Keely Chalmers said winds had died down and visibility was clear. But melting during the day combined with freezing temperatures overnight meant that problems with falling ice would likely continue through the week . . .

Mount Hood, about an hour's drive east of Portland, is one of the more frequently climbed glacier-covered peaks in the United States. In 25 years it has claimed at least 36 lives, including three who attempted the more dangerous north face in December 2006.



PMR Recovers Climber's Body from Mt. Hood
January 21, 2009

On Wednesday, January 21, 2009 -a husband and wife team- were ascending Mt Hood, traversing from the Hogsback over to the Mazama Chute, when suddenly ice broke free from the cliffs above them and struck the woman causing her to tumble 400 feet before coming to a rest at a depression on the west side of the Hogsback. Another team of climbers nearby witnessed the accident and called 911.

PMR arrived at Timberline around 12:00 pm and sent 14 rescuers into the field shortly thereafter. When the teams arrived at the scene, it was confirmed that the woman was deceased. Rescuers packaged the woman's body in a liter then, using a system of ropes and anchors, lowered her down to the top of the Palmer snowfield at 8500 feet where she was loaded into a snow cat.

All personnel were out of the field at approximately 8:00 pm.

A unique weather pattern called an inversion has brought unseasonably warm temperatures to the upper reaches of the mountain. These warm temperatures combined with the winter ice build-up can increase risk of falling ice.



What can climbers learn from this tragic event?

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 warm winter weather 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. Warm winter weather clearly has danger of falling rock and ice.

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



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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
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