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Oregon, Mt. Jefferson

Oregon, Mt. Jefferson—Robert A. Trahon (18) with his companion David L. Neitting attempted to climb the Jefferson Park Glacier route on Sunday, July 13. The weather was warm and clear. They reached the lower bergschrund with no difficulty. Here they got across the schrund and ascended a snow slab that extended down the buttress which lies to the west of the main pinnacle. Once off the snow they continued on the rock to the upper schrund. From here they were unable to get across and decided to traverse further to the west and find a way up the rock ridge. While descending, a very large rock hit the lower man and when the rope pulled tight, it somehow pinned the upper man, Neitting, in such a way that he couldn’t move. Figuring that his partner was dead, he cut the rope; the body dropped down to the lip of the lower schrund. Neitting managed to get down and report the accident at the Brightenbush Guard Station. Mountain Rescue was alerted in both Portland and Salem at shortly before 6:00 p.m. The call to Salem was through the Sheriff’s office and the call to Portland was through the Mt. Hood National Forest. Parties of 14 men left from Portland and six men from Salem and it was known that a party of approximately eight Mazama’s was camped at Jefferson Park. The base headquarters was set up at Brightenbush Lake. The main party left Brightenbush at 4:00 a.m., reached the body at 11:00 a.m. Twelve men actually worked on the mountain. The recovery of the body was somewhat hazardous because of having to work under the rock buttress and bergschrund. The weather was cold and the sun had not hit that area. Warmer conditions may have made the operation too hazardous to justify the removal of the body. Radio communication failed, but base coordinator, using good judgement, made arrangements for both horses and helicopters to carry the body out from Jefferson Park. A relief party waited at the bottom of the snow to carry the body over the rocks and into Jefferson Park.

Source: Keith Petri, Rescue Chairman.

Analysis: The route chosen was extremely difficult and hazardous and probably would not have been even attempted by experienced climbers. The climbers had some experience but not enough to attempt this route. A further error was that there were only two in the party, so it is very fortunate that both men were not killed. This party did not register for the climb. It is interesting to note that a party of quite experienced climbers were attempting the route the same day and they turned back because of adverse conditions. There was a failure in coordinating the activities of the Portland and Salem groups. In spite of the failure of radio communication, the over-all organization kept the operation running smoothly.

This case brings up the question of whether the removal of a body is justifiable under certain unusually hazardous conditions.