TIMBERLINE LODGE, Ore. -- Mobile technology helped initiate a faster rescue of a climber lost on Mt. Hood, a mountain rescue expert says, but it can also lead to a false sense of security.
Jeff Kish used his cell phone Wednesday afternoon when he became lost in a whiteout while trying to descend from the summit of Mt. Hood. He also used an app on his mobile phone to post his coordinates and status on Facebook.
Mt. Hood is one of the most frequently climbed mountains in America. The most popular time to climb is in late spring when weather and snow pack combine for optimal conditions but it’s not uncommon for experienced climbers to go for the summit in the winter too.
"If the conditions are right and you’re an experienced climber, you know what you’re doing and you have the right gear, avalanche hazard isn’t too high and you don’t have a storm bearing down on you, there certainly could be an argument made it's safer to climb during this time of year,” says Steve Rollins with Portland Mountain Rescue.
Rollins helped coordinate the rescue. Rollins says that, no matter when you climb, the key is to not rely on technology to get you back down.
“If you are going to climb in the winter time, it is absolutely critical that among other things you have your navigation skills dialed in,” said Rollins. “You’ve got a map, compass, GPS, altimeter - you know how to use these things and you have an intimate knowledge of the mountain.”
The climber wrote on his Wilderness Climbing Permit that he had a GPS with him but rescuers say it turned out to be an app on his cell phone---which eventually lost power.
Sgt. Sean Collinson with Clackamas County Search and Rescue expressed concern with what he sees as an increasing dependence on technology by climbers on Mt. Hood.
"There seems to be more reliance on technology and less on training and experience," said Sgt. Collinson.
The lost climber, Kish, was also posting updates on his Facebook page while he waited to be rescued. Searchers say it would be better to keep the phone off and save the battery to help crews find him.