PORTLAND, Ore. — A climber who fell more than 700 feet Tuesday on Mount Hood was pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said.
A rescue operation was continuing for four other climbers stranded on the mountain by tumbling rocks and falling ice, officials said. One of them was hurt, said Sgt. Brian Jensen of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. That injury was not life-threatening.
An eyewitness who saw the climber’s fatal fall said right before the man disappeared from view “he started cartwheeling.”
Quinn Talley of Welches, Ore., told The Associated Press that he has climbed the mountain about 20 times and had never seen worse conditions.
Talley says after summiting around 8 a.m. he was descending ahead of the man who died.
“A party of three was coming down. and one of the guys slipped. At first he was just sliding and right before he disappeared, he started cartwheeling,” Talley said.
Talley says he tried to reach the man, but the ice was too dangerous and he didn’t want to fall and create the need for second rescue. He came across one of the man’s climbing partners, who was also trying to reach him, and offered him his medical kit before continuing his descent.
The climber fell in the Hogsback area around 10:30 a.m. PT Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office said. That's at an elevation of approximately 10,500 feet.
A Black Hawk helicopter crew arrived from Salem and reached the group of climbers around 1 p.m. A paramedic was lowered to the mountain, and loaded the injured climber into a secure stretcher. The climber was lifted into the helicopter and flown to a Portland hospital where he was pronounced dead. His name has not been released.
Office of Emergency Management officials confirmed that the climber who fell was on the way up to the summit, without using ropes, and fell 700-1,000 feet. Three other members of that party performed CPR on the fallen climber until the helicopter arrived.
Approximately 40 rescue volunteers were at the scene. Crews from Portland Mountain Rescue, Mountain Wave Search and Rescue and the Air Force Rescue Squad are on the mountain. Another helicopter crew from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also responded to search for additional climbers.
Rough weather was expected on the mountain early Wednesday morning.
Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue says Hogsback, near the summit of the 11,240-foot mountain east of Portland, is the most popular climbing route on the mountain.
“Hogsback is a steep spine that goes from the crater of the volcano up toward the summit, approximately 800 feet in length,” Rollins said.
Mount Hood, a peak notorious for loose ice and rocks in warm weather, is a popular climbing site that has seen dozens of accidents and fatalities over the years. Thousands climb it each year, mostly in the spring.
The sun has been out this week and the temperature was around freezing at the spot where the climber fell, said Russell Gubele of Mountain Wave Search and Rescue.
“This is the kind of weather conditions and the time of year where you often get falling ice, falling rocks and problems,” Gubele said. “It sounds like the conditions up there are very unsafe right now.”
Contributing: The Associated Press