Climber killed in fall, others stranded on Mount Hood in Oregon

PHOTO: Reuters

TIMBERLINE LODGE, Oregon - A climber was killed after falling up to 1,000 feet (305 metres) on Mount Hood in Oregon and up to 15 other people remained stranded on the face of the mountain in difficult conditions on Tuesday (Feb 14), authorities said.

The injured man was airlifted off the snowy 11,000-foot (3,353-metre) mountain in northern Oregon to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland and pronounced dead on arrival, Brian Jensen of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said.

The Portland Oregon newspaper, citing state search and rescue coordinator Scott Lucas, reported that by the time rescue crews had arrived, the climber was bleeding, had injuries to his face and that his respiration was on and off.

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 climbers from around the world try each year to scale Mount Hood, an 11,249-foot-tall (3,429-metre) peak in the Cascade range. A potentially active volcano, Mount Hood ranks as the highest mountain in Oregon and is clearly visible in Portland, about 60 miles (97 km) to the west.

"The slopes were extremely steep and icy. If you were to slip and fall you couldn't dig your axe in and stop yourself. You're just gonna keep sliding. And that's what happened to I heard two of the climbers," Wyatt Peck, a 26-year-old climber who had started the climb with one of the stranded groups but turned back as conditions worsened, told the Oregonian.

Major Chris Bernard of the Air National Guard's 304th Rescue Squadron said that climbers had been stranded when cold overnight temperatures warmed quickly during the day, causing ice and rock to break loose.

"It was a great climbing scenario last night on Mount Hood and it just turned bad," Bernard said.

Of those still stranded on the mountain, at least one person had sustained a non-life-threatening injury, Jensen said. Four people were stranded above a treacherous area with enough food and water to last the day and had been told to stay in place because conditions made a descent hazardous, he said.

Another three to four climbers were attempting to make their way through those hazardous areas down the mountain. Jensen said it was possible there were more people on the mountain that had not been in communication with authorities.

A 40-person rescue crew, assisted by Air National Guard crews, was working to get everyone to safety before a storm hit later on Tuesday or early on Wednesday.

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