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Mt. Hood climb shows the need for knowledge.

The primary purpose of these reports and the Annual Report of Accidents in North American Mountaineering is to aid in the prevention of accidents: Fall on frozen scree, fall into crevasse, failure to follow route, climbing alone, inadequate clothing and equipment, inexperience.  

In late August, BC (38) was visiting Oregon from Missouri. He had a guidebook and intended to climb the "Sunshine" route on Mt. Hood. He parked his truck at Cooper Spur Ski Area and hiked up to the stone hut above Cloud Cap, spending two nights there waiting for the weather to clear. 

On Saturday morning he crossed the Elliot Glacier and headed up the Snow dome until he got stuck in the crevasses below Anderson Rock. He then descended back to the top of Snow Dome and spent the night. On Sunday he traversed and ascended until he made Cathedral Ridge, using a "big Bowie knife" to cut steps in the ice, then followed the ridge to the summit where he set up camp.

On the summit he used his guidebook to discern a descent route down the Southside of the mountain. Unfortunately he picked the wrong gully for his descent, instead doing a variation of the Steel Cliff that comes out just above the Devils Kitchen. He stated he thought he had “messed up” when he saw the Devils Kitchen but did not want to ascend back to the summit, so he kept descending off of the snow and on to a scree slope where he fell, ending up in a small crevasse above the Devils Kitchen. He explained he was able to crawl out of the crevasse and from there it looked best to him if he descended down the east side of the White River Glacier. He then hobbled and slid from about 10,200 ft down to 8,900 ft.

Upon hearing voices on the west rim of the glacier he called up for help. A passing hiker/ skier made the initial contact and then contacted a ski resort groomer who was able to get a call out for a mountain rescue. 

Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?

The Climber had some experience climbing in the Rockies, but never on a glacier. He attempted the climb without the use of crampons, an ice axe, mountaineering boots, or a helmet. He was exceeding his abilities, climbing on a glacier and steep ice without the proper tools or knowledge for a safe ascent. Climbing alone is not recommended and increases the risk.

Mt. Hood is notorious for poor rock and is extremely prone to rock fall during the summer months. In fact, The Climber stated that at one point during his ascent, a microwave-sized boulder went flying by. It is for this reason that climbing Mt. Hood during the summer months or when the loose rock is not firmly frozen together is not recommended.

Lastly, Mt. Hood summit climbers are requested to complete a registration form and a Wilderness Permit located in the Climbers’ Register in Timberline Lodge. The Climbers’ registration form provides rescue crews with important information in the event that a rescue is needed.

Exceeding abilities, insufficient equipment and climbing alone are common threads in mountaineering accidents.

Report filed by Member Robert Speik with some information from the Oregonian, verified by Portland Mountain Rescue, and printed in the 53rd edition of ANAM, year 2000
Copyright© 2000 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.


Read more:
Mount Hood - bergschrund incident: final accident report and analysis

Mount Hood - helicopter crashes during rescue
Mount Hood - incident causes safety concerns
Mount Hood - fatal fall on soft snow
Mount Hood - fatal fall on Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - fatal slip on hard snow from the summit
Mount Hood - lucky novice rescued
Mount Hood - lost on the mountain

What about climbing Mount Hood?

How to travel over steep snow
The traditional alpine mountaineer's ice axe
Learning to climb steep hard snow slopes 5 pdf pages

Learning roped travel and ice axe arrest
South Sister spring climb for gear and techniques

Mount Shasta - slip on hard snow
Broken Top - slip on snow
McArthur Rim - slip on frozen scree
Middle Sister - slip on frozen scree
North Sister - fatal slip on snow
Three Finger Jack - fatal slip on snow

American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering