A sad story has just come out of Oregon – an injured climber died on Mt. Hood before he could be airlifted off the mountain. Robert Wiebe, 58, of Langley, British Columbia fell near the area of “Snow Dome” at about 9,500 ft when his climbing team was hit by an unexpected snow storm and fierce winds. This accident comes just about 6 months after three hikers were lost. Records are sketchy, but I believe somewhere around 150 people have lost their lives on Mt. Hood.
Photo by Mr. Thomas on Flickr
What is it about Mt. Hood that results in so many deaths? I think it’s a combination of sudden severe weather changes and inexperience on the hikers/climbers part. Mount Hood can see 60 degree drops in weather in just minutes, hurricane force winds can come out of nowhere, and avalanches can trap a person in seconds. I did read that avalanches are not usually attributed as a cause of death on Mt. Hood, it is more likely for a person to fall as a result of ice falls or loose rocks. A lot of the Mt. Hood deaths are from hikers who trek unprepared, perhaps wearing light clothing and without proper gear.
One of the worst U.S. climbing accidents occurred in May 1986 when seven students and two faculty of the Oregon Episcopal School froze to death during an annual school climb. Of the four survivors, three had life-threatening hypothermia; one had legs amputated.
Mt. Hood is an absolutely beautiful place and great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Some 10,000 people attempt to climb Mount Hood each year making it one of the most popular climbing destinations in America. Each year we will see accidents and deaths – as outdoorsy people it’s important that we recognize and remember the fallen, yet learn from each situation so we can create a better experience for those in the future.