PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – One climber died and another was critically injured after falling 200 feet on Mount Hood, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said.
The sheriff’s office said the search-and-rescue mission for the two hikers began Sunday and lasted into Monday. They said the climbers were in the Leuthold Couloir area of Mount Hood when they fell shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday.
The rescue mission encountered challenging conditions while working to reach the two people. Crews encountered deep snow and avalanche conditions, with winds blowing between 50 and 70 mph.
There were at least two natural-release avalanche events on Mount Hood on Monday, the second day of the search.
The Leuthold Couloir is a long, steep chute on the west side of the mountain.
Both climbers suffered injuries in the fall. One of the injured climbers was able to call 911 using a cell phone and used a Garmin inReach device to notify an emergency contact.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office set up a command center at Timberline Lodge. They were assisted by volunteer search teams from Portland Mountain Rescue, the Hood River Crag Rats, and Mountain Wave Emergency Communications.
Sunday night, rescuers tried crossing the upper Reid Glacier and climbing the couloir to reach the injured climbers, but they were unsuccessful. The strong winds were knocking rescuers off their feet and blowing heavy sheets of snow, creating a dangerous avalanche risk.
By 11:40 Sunday, the first climbing team made it to within 700 feet of the two people, but could not reach them due to the conditions. They had to turn back due to the heightened avalanche danger in the area.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management could not deploy a military helicopter to assist with the rescue that night due to the altitude and weather conditions.
By daybreak Monday, the operation expanded to include additional search and rescue members from Portland Mountain Rescue, the Crag Rats, Mountain Wave, AMR’s Reach and Treat Team, the 304th Rescue Squadron, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Clackamas County Search & Rescue, Corvallis Mountain Rescue, and the Oregon Army National Guard.
Improved visibility on Monday allowed a team of rescuers to reach the two climbers. They had to summit the mountain and then descend the west side to the fallen climbers’ position above the Hourglass bottleneck at the top of the Leuthold Couloir.
When they reached the climbers, they discovered one of them was dead. The second climber was in critical condition.
Due to the severe avalanche hazard and poor conditions, rescuers decided to leave the deceased person on the mountain. They plan to conduct a recovery mission when conditions improve.
The second climber was evacuated off the mountain late in the day Monday. The climber arrived at Timberline at approximately 6:50 p.m. and was taken by paramedics and EMTs to a hospital for treatment.