American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Oregon, Mt. Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1967

Oregon, Mt. Hood. Late in the night of 16 July, Terry Tindall (19), Sue Davis (17), and John MacDaniels (18) arrived at Cloud Cap Inn. It was thought they had intended to climb Mt. Hood that night, but stormy conditions forced them to abandon that plan. Another party was at Cloud Cap. Both parties awoke at 5:00 a.m. The other party left at 7:00 a.m. and the MacDaniels party at about 8:00 a.m. The weather during the climb was mostly warm and sunny. The day before had been stormy. The MacDaniels party roped up when they reached Eliot Glacier and put on their crampons. They climbed through the lower ice fall on Eliot Glacier (for interest’s sake) to the moat-crevasse which separates the curving Eliot Glacier from the Northeast face below Cooper Spur. They picked up and followed the route made by the earlier party. The earlier party reported that they met soft snow two feet thick on a wet base on their route. By this time (about 11:00 a.m.), the sun had softened the snow and the previous party’s route over the moat was for practical purposes a one-way route; once across it the MacDaniels’ party believed it was committed to the North face. (Information from the other party indicates that this route could have been retraced.) The earlier party was now about three hours ahead and some distance above. Sue followed the tracks toward a couloir separated from the party by a large rock out-cropping. Just before she entered the couloir an avalanche swept down it. This was the first avalanche of the day. None had occurred on this face earlier.

They climbed up between two outcrops of rock and ate lunch on one of them. While they were eating, another avalanche came down the couloir. They could see the earlier party high above on the far side of the couloir almost to the summit. Some time later, having reached the summit and eaten lunch, the earlier party started their descent via Cooper Spur directly above the route selected by the MacDaniels party. Another party had also ascended the mountain and was descending by the same route. The slope climbed by the MacDaniels party was 50°–40° of hard ice with no snow on it. They were some 600 feet above Eliot Glacier cutting steps and belaying to protect against falls which they considered the primary danger, since they had seen no avalanches since the earlier party had reached the summit or slightly before that time.

The earlier party continued down and the MacDaniels party up. Suddenly, another avalanche swept down the face in the couloir–the third of the day. Their attempt to move faster was thwarted by steeper and harder ice. The higher and earlier party descended further and a huge avalanche swept down the face just 100 feet to their right at about 1:30 p.m. They were about 800 feet above Eliot Glacier when the party above yelled, “Avalanche!” MacDaniels was in the lead and told Terry and Sue to get into self-arrest –the avalanche struck them and they were swept away in an instant; down between two out-croppings and over the moat, 25 feet onto Eliot Glacier. They assessed their injuries which, in general, were minor. Sue and MacDaniels helped Terry who was most seriously injured into his down jacket. MacDaniels carried Terry’s pack, and they started down Eliot Glacier on the two mile hike to Cloud Cap. They were met by members of the other parties and were assisted to Cloud Cap. All members of the MacDaniels party were wearing Bell Toptex “Malibu” protective headgear. Only Tindall’s was severely scratched and had compression of the liner. No head injuries were experienced by the party.

Source: Ross Petrie and John MacDaniels

Analysis: There are a number of lessons to be learned from this incident:

If one is planning to climb steep snow and/or ice slopes, an early start is essential. Certainly an attempt to start up such slopes at 11:00 a.m. is much too late.

It is not good judgment to continue climbing on slopes that have given evidence of avalanching.

It is not good judgment to commit one’s party to a “one-way” route.

If there are parties climbing above whether on rock or snow, parties below should take every precaution to protect themselves; a lower party is decidedly placing itself in jeopardy by electing to climb a route that could be exposed to falling debris from groups above, whether on rock or snow.

Protective headgear proved to be of great value and at least for one person definitely prevented serious head injury.

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