American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Ice, Climbing Unroped, Oregon, Mount Hood

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1993


Oregon, Mount Hood

On February 29, Ralph Leach (40), Tom Morgan (53), and Lee Hepfer (49) successfully ascended the South Side (Hogsback) route on Mount Hood. At 1130 while descending the same route, Hepfer jumped the bergschrund (10,300 feet), slipped, and fell into a fumarole bowl known as “Devils Kitchen.” He was able to self-arrest after sliding about 300 yards. Leach descended to report the accident while Morgan down climbed to assist the injured Hepfer.

A multi-agency (downhill ski patrol, Nordic ski patrol, professional EMT, mountain rescue) hasty team reached the accident site around 1600 and made contact with the two skiers who had just assisted in moving Hepfer to a slightly lower location. A fully equipped Portland Mountain Rescue team left the base at 1637 to support a possible ground evacuation. Hampered by a steep, icy approach and inadequate equipment, two hasty team members managed to reach the subject at 1645. Requests for an air evacuation by the ARRS 304th were met and Hepfer was hoisted aboard a Pavehawk at 1710 and transported to Oregon Health Science University. Hepfer was treated for a broken ankle and lacerations of the face and hand.


The bergschrund on the Hogsback is a frequent site for climbing accidents. Numerous climbers have broken or sprained ankles after underestimating the vertical drop of the jump. Down climbing is usually a more controlled and less traumatic maneuver. The use of a rope belay would have prevented the fall. This is particularly prudent if the

snow/ice conditions or climber experience levels do not favor self-arrest. (Source: Jeff Scheetz, Portland Mountain Rescue)

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