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Oregon, Mt. Hood

Oregon, Mt. Hood. On June 25, a regularly scheduled Mazama climbing party of several ropes successfully climbed Mt. Hood by way of the Sunshine Route. Climbing conditions were good, the weather was excellent. The descent was made by way of the Cooper’s Spur route. At this time of year, this route is a single smooth snow-covered spur running almost the entire distance from the summit to timberline. Its upper portions vary between 45-degrees and 55-degrees with extreme exposure to the Eliot Glacier cirque.

At about 1:30 p.m. the last rope to descend from the summit contained Colin Chisholm (54) and his son Doug (21). After descending several rope lengths from the summit using standard belaying techniques, they decided to alternately glissade and belay in order to speed the descent and to catch up with the main group some distance ahead. Colin glissaded first wearing crampons in fairly soft snow while Doug belayed. Just as he reached the end of his rope his crampons hooked into ice throwing him forward into a fall. This dislodged his belayer who in turn started to slide downward. Loose rope entangled Colin’s legs and both men lost their ice axes. Their slide carried them over the edge of the very steep slopes above Eliot Glacier. The two climbers lost some 1500 ft. of elevation in a matter of seconds passing over the edge of one crevasse, where Colin broke his ribs on impact with its lower lip. After passing over the shrund above Eliot Glacier, they came to rest on the slopes of the glacier. Composing themselves and ascertaining that their injuries were not major (Colin had broken ribs and abrasions and Doug had abrasions only), they attempted to attract the attention of the rest of their party. The accident went unnoticed for some minutes as the rest of the party, who were well in advance, were not watching and were unaware of the Chisholms’ absence from the upper slopes. Upon becoming aware of the accident, Earl Levin organized a rescue squad out of the climbing party and sent Marge Dauelsberg to notify the Mountain Rescue and Safety Council of Oregon. Earl Levin and his group performed the necessary first aid and made the accident victims comfortable until help arrived.

Fortunately, Marge Dauelsberg ran into members of the Mountain Rescue group who were spending the day at timberline. Even more fortunate, they had with them two-way radio communications into Hood River, 60 miles away, and within a very short time, Bob Edling, local glacier pilot and Mountain Rescue member, was in the air prepared to air drop full rescue gear while other members of the Hood River unit were working their way to the scene to assist those already present. An air drop of rescue litters, sleeping bags, and other gear was successful and the victims were evacuated off the mountain and into Hood River by late evening.

Source: Ross Petrie MORESCO.

Analysis: It is quite apparent that glissading in an effort to speed the descent was the main cause of the accident. Other contributing factors may have been: glissading with crampons, losing the ice axes due to not using the wrist loops, and the lateness of the hour contributing to poor snow conditions. The fact that the accident went unnoticed for several minutes points out the necessity of keeping a large climbing group in close order. The rescue was facilitated by having trained personnel in the climbing group and by having a highly trained and organized Mountain Rescue group in Hood River. Colin Chisholm and his son, Doug, are highly trained and experienced mountaineers. This accident demonstrates that one cannot let one’s guard down for a moment even on a familiar route.