PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a climber died on Mt. Hood over the weekend, search and rescue organizations are warning people about the conditions on the mountain.
What does that mean for a Memorial Day Weekend that typically sees hundreds of people trying to reach the summit? KOIN 6 News spoke to some people who went for a hike up the mountain Tuesday, but turned back because it was too warm.
When conditions are warmer, ice and snow thaw, sending rocks and ice chunks down on the climbing route.
Typically, this is peak climbing season. But the snow was soft heading into this time of year, then the heat wave made quick work of it.
The snow melting also means some of the main routes where snow bridges over crevasses are melting and open. So, if climbers are set on going, they need to study all the routes up to the summit.
The last two weekends, Portland Mountain Rescue has been on missions in the mountains, including attempting to rescue the person who died.
On Saturday around 11:30 a.m., a 53-year-old Kansas man and his companion were hiking on the south side of Mt. Hood when the man collapsed due to an apparent medical issue, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. A member of Portland Mountain Rescue was training in the area and was able to respond and call in more help. But despite rescue teams performing life-saving medical services, the man did not survive, officials said.
“That rapid melt-off means you know, there’s a lot of ice fall and rockfall, the routes have melted out,” said Christopher Van Tilburg, Crag Rats Rescue mountaineer. “We want people to be careful and know what they are doing.”
The climbers KOIN 6 spoke with said there were some hairy sections near the top of the route and decided it was a better idea to turn around.
“Summit fever is never a good thing because if there are reasons why you shouldn’t, you want to go into it thinking you might not get to the top,” said hiker Grace Grimm.
Mark Morford with Portland Mountain Rescue says the weather isn’t doing people any favors and that there’s a chance of thunderstorms, which are even more deadly above treeline.
“Any weekend this time of year is just not going to be that much fun because there’s too many people. So (I) strongly encourage people to try and climb on a weekday. You’ll have a safer, much more enjoyable experience,” he said. “It’s very difficult and dangerous for people for traffic to pass up going up or down there but people get frustrated and do it anyway.”
If you do go, the experts say being off the crater by 9 a.m. this time of year would help ensure the snow is still frozen. Morford urges people to use guides this time of year.