PORTLAND, Ore. -- Climbers rushed to Mt. Hood Sunday and Monday to take advantage of excellent weather conditions on the mountain.
“Epic day,” said Paul Richards as he relaxed in the parking lot at Timberline Lodge. He and three friends summitted early Monday morning.
Unfortunately for them, many others did too. The mountain is so popular this time of year, they ran into a traffic-jam of climbers getting up to and down from the summit.
“The biggest problem was down climbing from the Pearly Gates when it’s so crowded. We had decided to rope up and do it that way and then other people don’t and you’re sort of bottle necked in there and you worry about knocking each other over,” said Richards.
Danger is never far away on Mt. Hood.
Sunday morning, a 32-year-old climber from Seattle named John Jenkins slipped while climbing near the Hogs Back, a ridge line below the summit, and fell 600 feet to his death.
Portland Mountain Rescue and others tried to help but the injuries were too much.
“They camped up there. Had the right gear, right climbing skins and what not. So they looked like they belonged in the mountains,” said PMR Rescue Leader Steve Rollins.
He said the section where Jenkins fell is very steep and it’s surprisingly easy to trip.
“With crampons, the metal spikes that we have on our boots to climb, makes tripping that much easier. You know you catch one of those points on the bottom of your leg or on the snow pack and you can be going down the mountain very quickly, very fast,” said Rollins.
Many climbers who reached the top Monday, camped part way up Mt. Hood Sunday night. Most heard about the incident but decided to climb anyway.
“I think conditions were great today,” said Steve McCarthy, a climber from Bellevue, Washington. “We did an overnighter so we stayed and got up early morning, 2 a.m., 3 a.m. So we were heading up while it was all cold and very solid,” he said.
May and part of June are the most popular times for climbing Mt. Hood, partly because the brutal storms that lash the mountain are less common now and the dangerous rock fall found in summer is less frequent too.
And for those who climbed Monday the effort was well worth it.
“Ah it was pristine conditions actually!” said climber Chris Brox from Portland.