American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Oregon, Mt. Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1960

Oregon, Mt. Hood—On June 20, there was a regularly scheduled Explorer Scout Climb of the South side of Mt. Hood. Co-leaders were John McCloskey and Amos Smelser, both Mazamas. The party consisted of 32 boys and 16 adults. Four of the boys stayed at the upper hot rocks, making 44 on the summit. Various other climbing parties were on the mountain at the same time. Weather was good, but the snow began to melt about noon, making the chute soft. Crags above the chute were plastered with snow and ice. The party arrived on the summit about noon and some immediately started down.

The Scout party was divided into nine ropes, and the accident involved the next to the last rope to leave the summit. Climbers in this rope going down were in the following order; Don Berger (30), David Draper (15), Bill Holling (16), Tom McCune (14), and Ed Smith (55). The party on the descent followed their own route on the ascent, went straight down the chute to a point above the crevasse, then traversed diagonally downward to the west to go around the end of the crevasse, then traversed diagonally downward to the east to the upper hot rocks.

While passing under the crags west of the chute, the rope squad was caught by an avalanche of snow and ice from the crags. They were warned by a call from the last rope, which was then waiting to follow along behind. Most of the squad were able to dig in, but apparently one person was still in motion when the avalanche hit. All were swept down into thecrevasse, with a drop of approximately 15 to 20 feet and were covered with the falling snow and ice.

Other climbers within the Crater area immediately proceeded to the crevasse, and several were lowered into the crevasse and commenced digging out those who were buried. The snow and ice that covered them had frozen and compacted. Digging was difficult and was accomplished only by means of ice axes. More snow and ice fell into the crevasse as they worked. Berger, Smith, and Holling were dug out first, in that order, and were hauled out of the crevasse by a straight lift. They were escorted down the mountain until they were met by the Forest Service crew. It was later learned that Smith had a fractured vertebra, while Holling and Berger apparently received only bruises. McCune was buried deeply in a prone position and was unconscious when first uncovered. Amos Smelser was successful in restoring normal breathing by simply pushing on his chest. The digging out was completed despite falling snow and ice after which he was hauled out by use of simple rope slings.

Draper was the most deeply buried, and by the time he was reached, which was 15 to 20 minutes, he was in a serious condition. As soon as he was dug out, he was moved to a point under the North wall of the crevasse, to avoid falling ice and snow. Artificial respiration was applied for about one half hour, while a litter was being improvised from a pack board, ski poles, and climbing rope. By the time the litter was ready, snow and ice falling from above had piled up in the crevasse until they could carry him out by simply walking over the lower lip of the crevasse. Artificial respiration was continued when he was out of the crevasse for a total of about three and a half hours. It was unsuccessful.

At 4:15 p.m. when the Sno Cat party arrived near the base of Crater Rock (end of the Cat track) they received word of the need for oxygen and radioed back. Arrangements were made with Bob Edling, CAP of Hood River, to fly in to Summit Meadows, where he was given a resus- citator to drop on the mountain. At about 5:10 p.m. the plane was in position for the drop in the crater and the pilot dropped a message asking if they needed the resuscitator. He received a negative reply and the resuscitator was not dropped.

Five akias were taken up by the Sno Cat of which two were used—for Smith and Draper. McCune was carried in the rope litter to the Sno Cat while Berger and Holling were able to walk to the Sno Cat.

Draper arrived at Timberline Lodge at 7:30 p.m. and was attended by Dr. Ross L. Curtess, visiting at the Lodge, and who worked on Draper for nearly one hour. He was then taken by ambulance to Providence Hospital in Portland. He received oxygen continuously en route to the hospital. He arrived at the hospital at approximately 9:35 p.m. He died at 10:10 p.m. Autopsy determined cause of death as asphyxiation.

Source: MORESCO—Bulletin 2, Volume 2, Number 8.

Analysis: MORESCO found no basis for criticism of the party leadership, organization, or management.

It was apparent one member of the roped party did not dig in when the warning of falling ice and the avalanche was given. This may havecontributed to jerking those members who were dug in and on belay out of position, and resulted in the party being swept into the crevasse.

Other climbers on the mountain succeeded in getting the injured climbers out of the crevasse before arrival of outside help. This was accomplished by strenuous efforts at considerable personal risk and with skillful improvision from materials at hand. One rescue member was hurt slightly when lowered incorrectly into the crevasse.

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.