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Oregon, Mt. Hood

Oregon, Mt. Hood—On July 29, 1956 two groups of American Youth Hostel climbers totaling 18 persons climbed Mt. Hood with one guide. This occurred because both groups arrived in Portland at about the same time and hoped to climb Mt. Hood. The usual leader, Carl Schnoor, could lead only on the 29th and he had agreed to take the first group on the climb. The second group was unable to locate a leader; the two groups were therefore reluctantly combined. This had been done two weeks previously with no harmful results.

The party was well equipped with proper climbing boots and crampons. There were 15 ice axes and four alpenstocks. On the way up the chute on the regular route of ascent Carl Schnoor came upon a poorly equipped party of two (a young boy and a man) who had neither ice axe nor crampons. Fearing for their safety, Schnoor borrowed an axe from one of his party and gave it to the man in the small party. Schnoor had given instructions to his party about the use of the ice axe and crampons on the ascent.

The entire group of 19 was tied into one rope which consisted of two 120-feet lengths tied together. The weather was beautiful. The ascent was made uneventfully. The accident occurred at about 3:45 p.m. during the descent. The afternoon sun had softened the snow in the chute, and as a result, the bucket steps were fairly long steps. The members of the party reported that a couple of the short girls had difficulty in descending for this reason, and had slipped a little trying to reach the steps. When the party had passed the large crevasse on the descent and were strung out below it, the slide began in the middle of the party. According to reports, Schnoor, Ron Heinrich and others of the party attempted to arrest the slide with their ice axes. It was difficult to make an effective arrest as they were tied so closely. The entire party of 19 slid approximately 200 feet into a fumerole type moat after bouncing off the rocks near the upper base of Crater Rock at 10,500 feet.

Fortunately there was another small party close by which saw the fall. They started giving aid and alerting a rescue team. The first of the rescuers reached the scene at 6:00 p.m. The party was cut apart and moved out of the moat, wrapped in blankets. By 8:00 p.m. more rescuers arrived including two doctors. By 9:00 p.m. the more seriously injured victims began the trip down the mountainside. The last of the victims left the Crater at 11:50 p.m. and was in medical hands by 3:10 a.m. after a two-mile evacuation. One of the climbers was killed and all of the others received varying amounts of injury; there were 13 litter cases. The Mountain Rescue & Safety Council of Oregon, Clackamas County Civil Defense Truck, Red Cross, Air Force, Air Guard, U. S. Forest Service and others were active in the rescue and deserve mention for their fine handling of the problem.

Source: Newspaper accounts; John Biewener, Sec’y MoReSCO.