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Falling Ice, Oregon, Mount Hood, Southside

FALLING ICE

Oregon, Mount Hood, Southside

On January 21, while ascending the Southside route on Mount Hood at 10,000 feet, a large piece of falling ice hit Brooke Colvin (31) in the face, causing her to fall about 400 feet. Her climbing partner (and husband) descended to her, realized that she was deceased, and continued down to report the accident. A separate party witnessed it and notified authorities by cellphone. A rescue team from Portland Mountain Rescue lowered the body to an awaiting snowcat at the upper Palmer snowfield.

Analysis

The unstable ice near the summit was caused by an unusual early season temperature inversion. The summit ice (heavy rime-ice) becomes a greater risk when warmer temperatures melt the bond holding the rime in place. This is normally due to direct solar heating (greater later in the day and later in the season), but can also result from prolonged elevated air temperatures.

The unstable snow/ice conditions near the summit described above contributed to a large number of accidents on Mount Hood this year. Five climbers were injured in separate accidents caused by falling snow/ice this season. (Source: Jeff Sheetz, Portland Mountain Rescue)