Portland/ Crime & Emergencies
AI Assisted Icon
Published on July 10, 2024
Dramatic Rescue on Mt. Hood: Climber Survives 700-Foot Fall, Airlifted to Portland HospitalSource: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office

A harrowing ordeal on Mt. Hood saw a climber take a dangerous 700-foot fall, necessitating a dramatic rescue operation last Saturday. The climber, identified as 55-year-old Arizona resident Chris Zwierzynski, was traversing the Old Chute route, a notoriously steep climb on the south side of the mountain, when he lost his footing on the icy slope. According to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Zwierzynski could not arrest his descent, leading to his significant tumble to the Hot Rocks area.

The incident was alarmingly witnessed by off-duty military medics who were quick to descend to his aid. Joining the impromptu rescue were two Mt. Hood National Forest climbing rangers, who were also nearby. They provided first aid to the severely injured climber, possibly stabilizing his condition while more help came. Search and Rescue Coordinators from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and Hood River County Sheriff's Office managed to quickly activate a rescue mission, summoning the help of Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) and the Hood River Crag Rats, as detailed by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

The collaborative effort drew in additional support from the Oregon Department of Emergency Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Recognizing the urgent nature of Zwierzynski's condition, the authorities requested helicopter aid from the Oregon Army National Guard's 189th Aviation Regiment, recognized for its proficiency in medical evacuations. A video released by Portland Mountain Rescue showcases the National Guard helicopter executing a "hot landing" on the Hogsback portion of the mountain as rescuers transported Zwierzynski the short stretch to the landing zone. The climber was swiftly airlifted and later transported to a Portland hospital for emergency care roughly six hours following his injurious fall.

In light of the incident, Mark Morford of Portland Mountain Rescue emphasized the deceptive nature of Mt. Hood's ascent, explaining how the conditions can lure climbers into dangerously misjudging their abilities. "May through early July is a popular time to climb Mt. Hood, and good climbing conditions have lasted longer this year than most", Morford stated, as per the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. He cautioned that while the mountain might appear more accessible, "all routes up the mountain are technical, requiring specialized training and equipment." Morford further recommended that climbers either seek proper training through organizations such as the Mazamas or choose to climb with a qualified guide to avoid finding themselves in over their capabilities firmly.