Climber survives 700ft fall @ Mt. Hood
Climber survives 700ft fall @ Mt. Hood

A 55-year-old climber from Arizona is recovering after falling 700 feet while on the Old Chute route on Mount Hood’s south side (11,200ft elevation). Chris Zwierzynski fell on Saturday around 7:45 a.m. He was unable to self arrest and ended up tumbling into the Hot Rocks area, sustaining several injuries during his uncontrolled descent. A few off-duty military medics and two Mount Hood National Forest climbing rangers witnessed fall and quickly descended to administer aid until a National Guard helicopter arrived performing a “hot landing” on a portion of the Hogsback to evacuate the injured climber. Mr. Zwierzynski underwent several surgeries at a Portland area hospital.

Portland Mountain Rescue Statement:

On Saturday, July 6, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and Hood River County Sheriff’s Office led a mission to evacuate a critically injured climber from Mt. Hood.

Around 7:45 a.m. on July 6, 2024, a climber slipped on the Old Chute route on Mt. Hood. This is a very steep climbing route, high on the mountain’s south side, located at around 11,200′ elevation. The snow surface was frozen, and the climber was unable to arrest his fall — tumbling about 700 feet down to the Hot Rocks area and sustaining multiple injuries. Fortunately, help was nearby: A couple of off-duty military medics witnessed his fall and descended to help. Two Mt. Hood National Forest climbing rangers also were in the area, and provided first aid to the injured climber.

Search & Rescue Coordinators from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and Hood River County Sheriff’s Office activated a joint mission. They called on personnel from Portland Mountain Rescue and the Hood River Crag Rats to mount an evacuation. The Oregon Department of Emergency Management and U.S. Forest Service also joined the mission. Given the patient’s critical condition, SAR Coordinators requested helicopter transport from the Oregon Army National Guard’s 189th Aviation Regiment, which specializes in medical evacuations.

PMR and Crag Rats rescuers reached the patient shortly after 1 p.m. They stabilized the patient and prepared him for transport.

Excellent flight conditions allowed the National Guard helicopter to do a dramatic “hot landing” on a portion of the Hogsback. Rescuers transported the patient to the aircraft, which then flew him to a Portland hospital for emergency treatment.

According to Mark Morford of Portland Mountain Rescue, “May through early July is a popular time to climb Mt. Hood, and good climbing conditions have lasted longer this year than most. All routes up the mountain are technical, requiring specialized training and equipment. All routes become progressively more difficult approaching the summit, which can lure inexperienced climbers into situations beyond their skill. PMR urges climbers to get proper training from an organization like the Mazamas, or to climb with a qualified guide.”

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