MT HOOD, Ore. (KGW) — One climber was transported to the hospital with critical injuries and another was declared dead after they fell approximately 200 feet in the Leuthold Couloir area of Mt. Hood.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) led a multi-team search and rescue mission on Sunday night and Monday after the two climbers fell just shortly after 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Both of the climbers sustained injuries in the fall but one was able to call 911.
CCSO said in a news release that the climbing conditions during the rescue were challenging due to the depth of the snow, avalanche conditions, and winds blowing between 50-70 mph.
Rescuers tried to get to the climbers Sunday evening by crossing the upper Reid Glacier and climbing the couloir but were unable to reach them. Strong wind gusts knocked rescuers off their feet. The wind, low visibility, and deep snow made rescuers try a different route.
At around 11:40 p.m. Sunday night, a climbing team made it within 700 feet of the climbers but were, again, unable to reach them due to poor climbing conditions and avalanche danger. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said it could not deploy a military helicopter to help with the rescue on Sunday due to the weather.
Monday, a number of teams were involved in the rescue mission, including PMR, the Crag Rats, Mountain Wave SAR, AMR’s Reach and Treat Team, the Air Force’s 304th Rescue Squadron, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office (which also provided an airplane to aid searchers), Clackamas County Search & Rescue, Corvallis Mountain Rescue, and the Oregon Army National Guard (providing a helicopter and crew).
High winds continued to be an issue, but daylight allowed a team to reach the climbers by summitting the mountain and going down the west side of Mt. Hood to where the climbers were, above the Hourglass bottleneck at the top of the Leuthold Couloir.
When they reached the climbers, one was pronounced dead and the other was in critical condition. Rescuers evacuated the climber in critical condition, but due to continuing hazardous and challenging conditions, they left the body of the other climber. They plan to mount a recovery mission when weather conditions improve.
The National Guard then attempted to airlift the climbers from their location above the Hourglass but conditions were again too challenging.
Late Monday, rescuers finally evacuated the surviving climber using ropes and a litter to a snowcat. The climber arrived at Timberline Lodge at approximately 6:50 p.m. They were then taken to a hospital.
Thirty-two rescuers were involved in the rescue effort on Monday.
More information will be released Tuesday.