Climber who got lost on Mt. Hood returned to safety

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rescue team brought a climber who got lost on Mt. Hood back to safety after a five hour search and rescue effort.

Mt. Hood on January 15, 2019. (CCSO) 

While search and rescue crews said this was an operation where everything went right, 68-year-old Ed Lipscomb still thought he might die on a mountain he’d climbed 182 times before.

“I have no idea where I’m at… you know, I could die out here,” Lipscomb said after making it back to Timberline Lodge with the help of Portland Mountain Rescue.

Dense fog rolled in Tuesday afternoon, causing even this experienced climber to lose his way.

“It got thicker and thicker and I couldn’t see beyond my boots basically,” he said. “I couldn’t see anywhere.”

Out of options, Lipscomb called for help around 1 p.m., telling the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office what little he could about his location. 

Search and rescue teams determined he was lost near the top of the Palmer Glacier. Palmer Glacier is on the south slope of Mt. Hood between 6,200 and 9,300-feet elevation. The lower section is in the Timberline ski area.

A Portland Mountain Rescue team loads into a SnowCat for a rescue on Mt. Hood on January 15, 2019. (CCSO)

“He was able to hunker down, he gave an estimation and we were able to locate him, we did use his coordinates from his cell phone,” Sgt. Brian Jensen said. 

Eight members of Portland Mountain Rescue took a SnowCat up to Palmer Glacier through thick fog — more than 9,000 feet up, racing against the sunset.

The team got to the top of the Palmer lift around 4:45 p.m., just before dark. The sheriff’s office said the crew had  high-powered lights to keep working in the dark. They went on foot to Lipscomb’s location.

“We were able to locate him, which is sometimes the most difficult part of a search and rescue,” Jensen said before Lipscomb was rescued. “But getting him down, right now we’re fighting of course the elements, we’re fighting light, so I wouldn’t say the most difficult part is over, but we’re definitely on the downhill side of this thing.” 

After skiing west, the rescue team found Lipscomb right around 5 p.m. and made it back to Timberline Lodge around 6. 

Rescuers said Lipscomb saved his own life by being dressed for the weather, calling for help when he did and staying put once rescuers figured out where he was.

Lipscomb said he’s happy to be rescued and weather permitting, he’ll be back next week to climb Mt. Hood for the 183rd time. 

A Clackamas County Sheriff's Office patrol car on Mt. Hood. (CCSO)

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