MT HOOD, Ore. — An Idaho man was seriously injured after he fell into the Devils Kitchen fumarole on Mt. Hood Wednesday evening, deputies said.
The climber, identified as 28-year-old George Stevens, started for the summit in the later hours of the day with two friends. On their descent, they reached the steep Hogsback snow ridge where the surface was slick with ice, according to the Hood River County Sheriff's Office.
The climber tried to snowboard down from this ridge but lost his edge and slid out of control. He fell into an open fumarole a few hundred feet below.
Mt. Hood is an active volcano with many small fumaroles, or openings in the rock that emit steam and volcanic gases. The gases melt large cavities deep underneath the snow. Two fumaroles are located in the direct fall lines for the most popular climbing routes on the mountain.
"Stevens fell to the rocky, exposed bottom of the fumarole cavity where he was seriously injured and unable to extract himself," the sheriff's office said.
Deputies responded along with more than 20 volunteer rescuers from the Hood River Crag Rats and Portland Mountain Rescue. They split up into two teams to climb up and rescue Stevens.
One of the rescuers was lowered into the fumarole cavity with a respirator and gas monitors to retrieve Stevens around midnight. The team stabilized the injured climber and hoisted him to the surface where he was loaded in a litter.
The rescuers used ropes to lower him down steep, icy slopes to the top of the Palmer ski lift at Timberline Lodge. He was transferred to a snow cat that transported him to the ski resort's parking lot where he was picked up by an ambulance.
The Hood River County Sheriff's Office said this was the third rescue on Mt. Hood in five days.
"Clear skies during the past week have encouraged many people to explore winter conditions high on the mountain. Even on a clear day, however, Mt. Hood’s winter is a severe and unforgiving environment," the sheriff's office said. "Climbing in these conditions requires technical equipment and advanced mountaineering skills. With short daylight, extreme low temperatures and wind, the mountain remains icy and slick, and gives no margin for error."
Over the past week, deputies said they've come across multiple people climbing Mt. Hood without the appropriate equipment, navigation or mountaineering skills.
They encourage people interested in climbing to hire a guide or seek training from an established climbing club.