American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Oregon, Mount Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1950

Oregon: Mount Hood. Just before dawn on 29 October 1949, Donald Welk, a 20-year-old Lewis and Clark College student, was killed in a 3000-foot sliding fall. His sister Alice (17) and another climbing companion, Robert Buscho (24), a Portland fireman, looked on helplessly as the youth tumbled head-over-heels and out of sight down the mountain slope. It seems that he had lost his footing while he was groping up a 45-degree pitch approximately 300 feet below the summit of the peak. He was apparently using an alpenstock. All three persons of the party were members of the Mazamas of Portland and had climbed Mount Hood several times before.

Source of information: newspaper reports.

Analysis. According to Buscho, Welk was helpless in trying to dig his alpenstock into the ice. Under the evident icy conditions encountered during the pre-dawn hours at this very late season of the year, it would seem advisable that such a party be roped, especially on the steepest upper portions of the climb. Also it is evident that an ice-axe might have aided Welk in a self- arrest more easily than his alpenstock, under the conditions of the slope. Had the party been roped, and had belays been well taken, this loss of life would never have occurred.

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