Mission 00-08
Missing Climbers on Mt. Hood

by Spencer Wood

Cornices on the Little Zig Zag

Looking across Little Zig Zag
Member hours: 120

Participants: Kathy Blackburn, Lindsey Clunes, Jim Dagata, Don Lacer, Joy Linn, Scott Linn, Iain Morris, Keith Vertanen, Spencer Wood

An activation page was sent to CMRU at 0100 on December 24, requesting assistance with a search on Mount Hood. Two climbers had been reported overdue the previous evening and last seen near the top of the Palmer Chairlift. CMRU and PMR staged at Timberline at 0600 amidst heavy snow and winds.

Kathy and Keith getting ready

Scott is ready to go

View from the snowcat
By 0630, three PMR units had been taken up the Palmer Glacier by snowcat and assigned to cover the terrain below the Hogsback, above White River Canyon, and in the vicinity of Illumination Rock. By 0830, the two CMRU teams had been taken by snowcat to the top of the Palmer Chairlift and asked to search the terrain lower on the mountain.

Scott, Keith, and Don share a close moment in the snow cat

Unloading from the snowcat

Illumination Rock and the top of Mt. Hood
It was about this time that the weather began to clear and a beautiful day unfolded. We were provided with excellent views of the mountain and fantastic conditions for searching. Unfortunately though, the strong winds and snow had covered any tracks left by the climbers.

Scott, Iain and Spencer
One CMRU team was assigned to search the area between Big and Little Zig Zag Canyon while the other team covered the terrain east of Little Zig Zag Canyon. Both teams covered the slope down to approximately 6000 feet and found no sign of the subjects.

Meanwhile, the PMR teams continued to search the upper mountain, covering the terrain around Illumination Saddle, Mississippi Head, and White River Canyon. In addition, the Civil Air Patrol plane made several passes around the upper mountain and south side.

Chris from PMR skiing across the windblown snow

Timberline Lodge after the storm
During the mid afternoon, a Crag Rats team was deployed from the Timberline Lodge and skied west through the timber, looking for tracks. The Crag Rats then connected with a CMRU team and continued their search down the mountain while the CMRU teams returned to Timberline Lodge.

The other searchers returned sometime later. While many searchers were making plans to begin again on Christmas morning, the climbers were making their own way off the mountain. By 1700, the climbers had found their way out of the forest at the Kiwanas Camp, below the Zig Zag Canyon.

As always, the mission served as a teaching tool for many of us. Jim learned how to sneak into an empty house, Keith learned that Sandy is a strange town to be stuck in during the night, and all of us were reminded that rescuers are dedicated and giving individuals even on Christmas Eve. Many thanks should go out to everyone who put their holiday plans, visiting inlaws, and airplane flights on hold for this mission.

Powder snow in the trees

Photos by Lindsay Clunes