PORTLAND -- Jeff Kish of Portland gained some national notoriety this week, not for getting stranded in a whiteout on Mount Hood, but for posting his coordinates to his Facebook page to assist rescuers.
The post also led to friends contacting him via social media, offering words of support.
The avid outdoorsman posted a narrative of his experience on his Facebook page which allows widespread access.
Here is his verbatim account of the incident:
In the first photo, I'm at the top of the crater, about to go up old chute to the summit.
Clear skies, nice view of Mt. Jefferson, neat cloud inversion in the distance - just a couple hundred feet from the summit. The second photo is the view from the summit shortly after...
Thank you all so much for your concern and support the last few days, and sorry for the scare! Everyone's got a lot of questions about what happened up there - and there's a lot of speculation on the news sites.
Here's the facts: Before going up on the mountain, I always check the northwest weather and avalanche center reports for the mountain online (the same info on the screen at the climber's registry at Timberline lodge.)
The avalanche report was more safe than I've ever seen it - all green for all parts of the mountain. I also always check weather.gov for a spot forecast for Hood's summit here.
The forecast was for a clear night that would last well into the morning, and then an 80% chance of light snow later in the day Wednesday, when I expected to be back down at a safe elevation. Even if it came a little earlier, I judged it, as described, to be safe enough conditions for a down climb.
So I rented a car, drove out to the mountain, spent the night sleeping at a rest stop near timberline, and then head up to the mountain around 2:00 am to start my climb up.
I brought extra gear in case of an emergency, filled out the sheets at the registry with my itinerary and gear list, and started up slope by 2:30. It was a gorgeous night. The moon was full, the skies were clear, and the view was great.
I could see Mt. Jefferson in clear detail by the moonlight alone. The city lights of Portland were crisp behind illumination rock, all the features of the upper crater were distinct, and the route was clear well before the sun broke the horizon.
I climbed the whole way without using my headlamp. I was up to Devil's Kitchen at the lip of the crater when the sun was just turning the eastern horizon orange. The skies were clear and everything looked as predicted in the forecasts beforehand.
I climbed up and over the Hogback, then around all the fumaroles, and then began the final ascent up through old chute to the summit. The chute is steep, and I was focused on the ice and snow in front of me. As I neared the top, I turned and saw a wall of white rushing up the mountain. In a few minutes, I'm on top in a complete whiteout. The clouds came in from the distance and rushed up the mountain with strong winds and some snow. The winds stirred up all the lose existing snow on the mountain as well, and the result was just blinding white, with no visible distinction between where the ground stopped and the storm started.
I turned to face the mountain and climbed down the chute backwards, trying to find my old kicked in steps to get back to the crater.
In the whiteout, it was impossible to tell how far I had descended until I smelled the fumaroles. I climbed down past those, and knew where crater rock should be in relation to them.It wasn't until I could reach out and touch crater rock that I knew it was there.
I swung around the east side of the crater when the first of a series of incidents occurred that led to the decision to call 911.
I punched through the crust of snow too close to Crater rock and found myself dangling from the hips down in a hole that was created by the hot noxious gases being vented from the volcano. The hole was deeper than the depth I fell, and I was lucky to have caught my fall and been able to climb back out.
If I had fallen completely through, things could have been really bad. This was a mistake I made because I was getting off the mountain by touch; and feeling for hazards is the worst way to find them.
After the fall, I decided to make a wider ark around crater rock to avoid a repeat.
The common advice for navigating the mountain in a whiteout on the south side is to just head south. Following the fall line will take you away from Timberline Lodge.
I made the wide ark and entered the south slopes a little further out than I should have. I also ran into some terrain I needed to avoid so I got further and further from the center line.
I was conscious of this and tried to correct my line of descent, but what I didn't know was just how far I had actually descended before trying to make the correction.
At one point I took a step down into the white and just found a void where I thought there would be snow. I took a tumble of a low edge and fell into soft snow. Nothing serious, but the fact that I could be stepping off cliffs in that section of the mountain without knowing it was disconcerting.
How deep would the next one be? It was this fall that I landed on my crampon. I didn't think too much of it at the time. No blood showed through my two layers of pants, it didn't hurt much, and I had worse things to think about.
As I tried to get west, the terrain got much steeper, and the consequences of another slip grew exponentially. Visibility was still terrible, it was cold, and from my limited view of the situation I was in, I decided moving any further was too risky.
I layered up, laid down an insulating sleeping pad I carried, pulled out my 15 degree sleeping bag, and crawled in for shelter. I considered trying to wait out the storm, but the forecast for the rest of the week seemed to indicate that things might not get better, and I knew I was in a pretty dire situation to be stuck in that position with that kind of exposure for too long, so I made the decision to call 911 and ask for help.
I provided the 911 operator GPS coordinates for my location which I took from an app I had on my phone. She forwarded me to a sheriff who would be in charge of coordinating the rescue.
We spoke several times about my situation, and he contacted Portland Mountain Rescue with the details. Volunteers from all over came and met at Timberline lodge, and at 5:00 pm, a couple hours after I called for help, they were heading to the top of Palmer Glacier in a snowcat.
By this time, it was already dark. When they radioed to the sheriff that they were close to my location, the sheriff let me know, and I crawled out of the relative safety of my sleeping bag, and began to blow my safety whistle for the rescuers to hear, and set my headlamp to pulse, hoping they could use it as a beacon to close in on me.
Unfortunately, the wind was too strong for the sounds to carry and there was too much snow in the air for much light to penetrate, so their search lasted until about midnight, when we all finally spotted one another.
In the mean time, things got really bad for me up there. The snow piled up, and I had to keep digging out. It was getting into my bag and melting, and my breath was causing a lot of condensation, which added to the problem.
Wet down provides no insulation, and I got wet and cold fast. I had to keep a hold of the light, and my gloves got saturated and froze solid. I got short of breath, and it was hard to shout and blow the whistle, but I kept at it, with no response or sign of the rescuers for hours.
I got nauseous trying to stand. I trembled horribly, and then finally began to get drowsy and started to hallucinate a bit - mostly about being rescued, when in fact, no one was there.
I think I may have passed out a few times. There were moments when I thought about giving up on the rescue. To be seen, I needed to get out of my bag which was wet, but still kept the wind off, and I was getting confused and disoriented, and it was really hard to snap out of it and motivate to do what I needed to do to be rescued.
Finally, around midnight, I heard a faint whistle. I whistled back, and then spotted headlamps. They saw mine and began to make their way over to my location. They got up to the ledge I was on, gave me a lot of hot stuff to drink, gave me some dry layers to wear, and asked if I thought I could climb off the mountain on my own power.
I said I thought I could, but was apprehensive due to the condition I was in. Moving was good though, and as a group, the rescuers and I climbed down off the ledge as my body warmed from the activity.
The visibility was marginally better at that point, but still bad enough that the SAR leader actually led us down into the wrong canyon by mistake. When we realized where we were, we readjusted our course though, and everything worked out OK.
We climbed down to a snowcat waiting for us at the top of the Palmer glacier. On the ride down we talked a bit about PMR. One of the rescuers mentioned that a lot of their members join after being rescued themselves. One even needed his own rescue after he was a trained member of the group!
They said, "you ARE going to keep climbing right?" and were happy to hear me say "yes." They did a good job of helping me off the mountain, and a great job of making me feel comfortable about my decision to ask for their help.
A common sentiment I've seen in the newspaper comment sections after a climber needs rescue is that the climber is irresponsible for putting the rescuer's life at risk because of their selfish actions.
Talking to these guys, the ACTUAL rescuers everyone likes to speculate about in these situations, it was perfectly clear that they love what they do, often require the same services themselves at one point or another and have chosen to pay it forward, and that they encourage fellow climbers to get right back on the horse when they fall off.
Back at Timberline Lodge, the media was waiting with cameras for interviews, and that was the first thing I had to do once I was back on solid ground.
After that was a quick talk with some medics and the sheriff who organized the rescue, and a great night at Timberline Lodge with Kolby Kirk, who had been in constant communication with the rescue team and did a great job passing the details on to my friends and family.
He drove all the way up from Bend, arranged a discount on the bunk room, and greeted me with hot chocolate and rum!
In the morning we had the famous timberline lodge breakfast buffet, and then it was back to Portland for me. My leg is cut a bit from the crampon, and all 10 fingers may or may not have frostbite - i should know soon.
It was a long 25 hours on the mountain, and I definitely got a serious introduction to the potential perils of mountaineering.
I must admit I was getting pretty scared toward the end of my wait for rescue, but in the end, I still maintain - you can't let fears dictate the way you live your life.
The biggest rewards always come with some risk.