A climber who fell on Mount Hood in Oregon Tuesday has died, officials said, and rescuers have reached other climbers who were stranded amid poor and dangerous conditions.
The climber, who was not identified, fell between 700 to 1,000 feet into the Hogsback area, which is at an elevation of around 10,500 feet, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and NBC affiliate KGW of Portland.
The climber was pronounced dead upon arrival at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, the sheriff’s office said. A Black Hawk helicopter from the Oregon National Guard airlifted the man.
Rescuers reached other stranded climbers and were attaching a line to help get them to safety, the sheriff’s office said on Twitter just before 4:40 p.m. local time (7:40 p.m. ET).
The call of a fallen climber was received at around 10:30 a.m., sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Jensen said, and other climbers went to his aid. Rescue efforts were continuing for other climbers on the mountain, which has a summit of 11,240 feet and is the state’s highest peak.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management said that the injured climber was on the way up to the summit without ropes when he fell, KGW reported.
There were another group of four climbers stranded on Hogsback, and another three to four climbers who were above them and were going through the hazardous conditions making their way down to Hogsback, Jensen said.
One of the climbers in the lower group was injured, but the injuries were not thought to be life-threatening, he said.
The group of stranded climbers was in contact with officials and are safe, Jensen said, “however, the ascent and descent from that location they describe as severely hazardous with falling rock and falling ice.”
Four of the stranded climbers were being assisted by rescuers down the mountain, and three other climbers were making their way down without assistance, the sheriff’s office said.
Major Chris Bernard of the 304th rescue squadron out of Portland said 14 rescue specialists were sent to the mountain, in conjunction with other groups. Portland Mountain Rescue sent 13 climbers on their way up, the sheriff’s office said.
Rough weather is expected for the area at around 1 a.m., with rain, snow and winds, Jensen said. “We are trying to do everything we can to get everyone down safely before that weather hits us,” Jensen said.
Scott Lucas, head of search and rescue for the state emergency management agency, said that the man who fell couldn’t stop his fall and fell to the Hogsback area.
The route which is generally the one taken to the summit and is the most dangerous area on the mountain, Lucas said. He said that when people get hurt, “they generally slip trying to summit, and end up back in the Hogsback area,” which is what happened Tuesday.
The mountain, a dormant volcano, attracts more than 10,000 climbers a year but the normal climbing season is from April to mid-June, according to the U.S. Forest Service. There’s about one fatality on the mountain per year, according to the Forest Service.
Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue told KGW that Hogsback is the most popular climbing route on the mountain.
“Hogsback is a steep spine that goes from the crater of the volcano up toward the summit, approximately 800 feet in length,” Rollins told the station.
A climber on the mountain Tuesday who turned back described conditions on the mountain as “terrible.”
“You had ice axes and crampons and you couldn’t get secure foot in your holds,” Wyatt Peck, 26, or Portland, told reporters, adding that there was a layer of ice on top of another layer and that made getting holds difficult. “If you were to slip and fall, you couldn’t dig your axe in and stop yourself,” he said.
“This is the worst climbing day I’ve experienced for sure, condition wise,” Peck said.
Mount Hood National Forest is east of Portland.