American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Snow, Fall into Crevasse, Weather, Oregon, Mount Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

FALL ON SNOW, FALL INTO CREVASSE, WEATHER

Oregon, Mount Hood

On July 11, 1987, at 0400, Arthur Anderson (59), Elmer Parrott (40) and Robert Cooke (30) left Timberline Lodge to start their ascent to the summit of Mount Hood. Being the most experienced climber of the three, Parrott took the lead. Cooke was positioned in the middle, with Anderson at the end. They maintained their positions throughout most of the climb, with ten meters of rope between them.

The three reached the summit at 1300 and because of a continuing warming trend, immediately started back down the same route. An hour later, they reached an area above the Bergschrund Crevasse at 3350 meters. They were in the process of making their way across the top and around the east side of the crevasse when Anderson lost his footing and slid past Cooke. At first, Cooke and Parrott managed to maintain a somewhat controlled slide. As they gained speed they lost control, were pulled downward, and tumbled head over heels over the top of the ridge into the crevasse.

Cooke landed on a ledge about three meters from the top of the crevasse and was knocked unconscious. Parrott and Anderson landed on a ledge about two meters from the top. After a few minutes, Cooke regained consciousness and crawled to the other two climbers. He found that Parrott appeared to have been seriously injured and could find no vital life signs in Anderson.

About 1400, Jim Ferguson and James Crown were eating lunch at the base of Crater Rock near the 3280 meter level. They were watching three climbers slowly descend down the “chute” east of Hogsback. They noted that the three were roped together, were wearing crampons, were carrying ice axes, but were not wearing helmets. They also noted that the three were moving in an easterly direction around the top of the bergschrund instead of the more favored route to the west.

Without warning, the three climbers started to slide and tumble downward. They continued until each disappeared into the crevasse. The two waited for about five minutes thinking that the climbers would climb out. When they didn’t, Ferguson went for help while Crown worked his way up Hogsback toward the crevasse. As he neared the ridge, he saw that one climber had climbed out of the crevasse. The climber (later identified as Cooke) appeared to be excited and hysterical. He was yelling that he needed help, that one of the climbers was dying, and that the other was probably dead. Crown climbed down into the crevasse and checked both climbers. He determined that one climber was deceased and the other had suffered a compound fracture and head and chest injuries. Using an ice ax, he fashioned a splint and applied it to the wound. Because of the steady fall of rocks into the crevasse from above, he gathered packs and clothing and placed them over the injured climber to protect him.

Meanwhile, Ferguson had broken into the operator’s station at the top of the Palmer chair lift and used a telephone to call Timberline Lodge. He was referred to Mount Hood Ski Patrol and informed them of the accident. From his position, he could see other climbers head toward the crevasse. He was asked to come down to Timberline Lodge so that sheriff’s deputies could talk with him.

The ski patrol immediately called the sheriff’s office and search personnel were notified. Lt. Hanners called Portland Mountain Rescue coordinator, Dave McClure, and passed on the information received. McClure indicated that he would put a team on standby until it was determined that the 304th could respond. The SAR coordinators were notified and two immediately responded to Timberline Lodge while two responded to the sheriff’s department to establish a command post and begin initial call-out procedures.

By this time, several climbers still on the mountain had learned of the accident and had arrived at the crevasse. Pam Criggen, a nurse climbing the mountain, had given additional first aid to Parrott and checked Cooke. Both climbers were placed under a ledge to keep rocks from falling on them. Ropes were fashioned and placed around Parrott so that he could be lifted out more easily by rescue crews.

An hour later the climbers at the accident site observed a helicopter from the 304th flying toward their location. The helicopter hovered above them for a few minutes and then left. Thinking that it could not land near the site, the climbers lifted Parrott out of the crevasse and carried him toward the Hogsback where they were met by pararescue climbers from the 304th. Because of severe winds (which caused some damage to the helicopter’s rear rotor), the helicopter was forced to land about 300 meters below the accident site. A second and larger H-3 helicopter was immediately dispatched from Portland Air National Guard Base. Life Flight was also requested and responded to Timberline Lodge to assist in the evacuation of the injured.

While paramedics responded to the crevasse, a flight physician and paramedic stabilized Parrott’s condition. Cooke was flown to the parking lot at Timberline Lodge and then to Portland Adventist Hospital. The medical team was flown back to the landing zone on the mountain. By this time, the other climbers from the 304th had reached the crevasse. They notified the sheriff’s SAR coordinators that one of the climbers was deceased.

The H-3 helicopter arrived at Timberline Lodge, but could not land due to the number of vehicles in the parking lot. It was, however, able to land at the landing zone on the mountain. Because of rotor problems, the smaller helicopter returned to the air base. Parrott was picked up and flown to Portland Adventist Hospital.

By early next morning, three teams of Portland Mountain Rescue members consisting of 13 climbers were at the site. The deceased was removed from the crevasse and belayed down the mountain to a snow cat and then transported to the command post, where he was checked by Deputy Medical Examiner Coleman, then transported to Beaverton. (Source: Cheryl Maslen, Secretary, Board of Directors, Portland Mountain Rescue)

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