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Mt Hood - Cooper Spur - Snowboarding Fall
Snowboarder dies on Mount Hood
May 24, 2002
MT. HOOD - A snowboarder on Mount Hood died Friday after falling from the northeast side of the mountain.
The victim has been identified as 30-year-old Juan Carlos Munoz. Munoz, from Argentina, was a resident of Government Camp and had been working at Timberline Lodge. It was Munoz’s first trip to the summit of Mount Hood.
Members of Munoz’s party told Clackamas County 911 that Munoz disappeared from the north end of the mountain, not far from the summit shortly after 6:30 a.m.
Munoz’s body was found lying motionless near the upper end of the Eliot Glacier at around the 8,500 foot elevation mark. Rescuers with the 939th Rescue Wing said Munoz was "non responsive" and could not be revived when they reached him. His snowboard, broken in half, was still attached to his feet.
Eliot Glacier lies below the Cooper Spur climbing route. A friend of Munoz’s told the Hood River Sheriff that he had intentionally tried to ride down the Cooper Spur route. This route is considered dangerous because there is little room for error if a person was to fall. The terrain is extremely steep and has several obstacles including crevasses, sheer rock cliffs, and ice.
Munoz had planned to board down this route, and return to the summit the same way. According to the Hood River Sheriff’s Department, Munoz had left all of his climbing equipment, including his helmet on the summit.
Summary: It appears that Mr. Munoz was an accomplished snowboarder but lacked a mountaineering background. While the Cooper Spur has been skied, and probably snowboarded, it is an "extreme" route which should not be taken lightly. A fall of any kind typically means death, as it did in this case. Few people would attempt it on a whim after coming up the South Side without the opportunity to inspect the descent route on the way up. Mr. Munoz apparently intended to ascend the Cooper Spur back to the summit but left his climbing gear at the top. Anyone familiar with the route would realize that this gear would be necessary to climb back up. He was advised against a descent on the north side by his partner on the summit. This information, taken together as a whole, seems to indicate that Mr. Munoz had insufficient mountaineering experience to appreciate the risk he was taking or the consequences. While he probably knew his snowboarding skills and limits well it seems he significantly underestimated the mountain.
--Sent to TraditionalMountaineering. Original source not known.
Read more . . .
Observations from Robert Speik excerpted from his Analysis of the recent tragic deaths of three climbers and crash of a rescue helicopter. See below.
"Incidents like this bergschrund tragedy on Mount Hood, are not just 'accidents'. There are traditional mountaineering techniques that mitigate common mountain climbing risks. These techniques can be taught. These techniques can be learned.
The hardness or softness of the snow surface of a steep snow slope is a critical factor. Countless incidents have occurred on hard snow slopes. Conversely, if the snow is too soft the ice axe is useless and the snow will simply give way under the weight of the climber and the climber will slip away, perhaps becoming airborne and bouncing and tumbling like a rag doll to the bottom of a long steep slope. The experienced climber can understand the risks of the condition of the snow at the moment - it can change to a hard surface in the shadows to quickly softening as the sun rises in the morning. (The climbers were faced with very hard "frozen" snow on the cold early spring morning. Conditions were clearly very technical demanding the utmost respect. However, photos show sun softened, more forgiving snow just a short time later, under the rescuers boots.)
The snow is very hard if the spike and shaft can not be pushed into the snow more than an inch or two. The snow is very soft if the spike and shaft can be pushed all the way in and levered out. Snow is an ever changing medium. Snow safe to climb before dawn can become a deadly trap after the sun touches it for only a few minutes. (Several deaths have occurred on Mount Hood because of softening snow on the notorious Cooper Spur route.)"
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American Alpine Club
Oregon Section of the AAC
Accidents in North American Mountaineering