PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mt. Hood rescue teams were recovering on Monday after a busy weekend working on the mountain. Two climbers were rescued in separate incidents between Saturday and Sunday — one involved an avalanche. KOIN 6 News spoke to the rescue leader who hiked more than nine miles in ski boots to get one of the climbers to safety.
All told, about 50 people — mostly volunteers — were involved in the two rescues. Rescuers are concerned about the sheer number of climbers that have been flocking to Mt. Hood. They said avalanche conditions are extremely high and resources are limited due to the pandemic. The Northwest Avalanche Center, which typically provides detailed forecasts for climbers has been closed as part of the governor’s pandemic response — the idea was to not encourage risky adventures during the shutdown.
Rescuers got the first call for help on Friday night, May 22. After summitting the mountain, Nick Larson from Bend was attempting to snowboard back to Timberline Lodge when he ran into bad weather and got trapped in the whiteout conditions. He called 911 and rescue teams got his coordinates.
“It’s a pretty treacherous place,” described Mark Morford with Portland Mountain Rescue. “He was on the west side in very deep snow. Our rescuers were sinking up to their chest.”
The mission lasted through the night and required multiple teams to help. Rescue Leader Erik Broms of Portland Mountain Rescue built a snow cave to warm up Larson when they found him around 2 a.m. before bringing him down the mountain. The journey back was more than nine miles.
“He was extremely hypothermic,” recalled Broms. “I would say he didn’t have much longer until his body was really going to shut down and he would be beyond any point we could bring him back from the field.”
As crews were pulling the first climber to safety, another climber visiting the area from Colorado triggered an avalanche. Dani Rudinsky called rescue teams for help after she fell more than a thousand feet.
“That avalanche carried them at least a thousand feet, probably more like 1,500 feet, down a narrow chute and were incredibly fortunate to only sustain minor injuries,” said Morford.
A second team from Portland Mountain Rescue had to use a pulley system to rescue the climber from the tight spot she was in. They were able to transport her on skis down to Timberline Lodge.
Crews said both climbers were very fortunate to be alive.
Rescuers are now asking for anyone who heads into the backcountry to be very conservative right now. Those rescue volunteers said social distancing is nearly impossible for them during those difficult rescues, which puts everyone at risk every time someone gets into trouble.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather