Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office contacted PMR at approximately 4:30 p.m. on February 6, 2012 requesting assistance to search for an overdue climber on the south side of Mt. Hood. The climber, 31 year-old Jared Townsley was climbing alone up the south side, starting at about 1:00 a.m. on February 6. He was reported overdue by his brother. Interviews by the Sheriff’s office of other climbers on the mountain that day indicated that he had been last seen descending around the base of Crater Rock at about 8:30 a.m.
PMR fielded a hasty team of three rescuers who boarded a snow cat around 7:45 p.m. to the top of the Palmer lift. They first searched the upper Zig Zag west toward Illumination Saddle and below west Crater Rock. They then proceeded to the main climbing route on Triangle Moraine and proceeded up to the Hogs Back at 10,500’ and into the west crater.
PMR’s second group of rescuers left Timberline Lodge around 10:00 p.m. and staged rescue supplies at the top of the Palmer lift. They split into two teams. Team 2 searched the west rim of White River Canyon above 8500’, including checking large crevasses on the White River Glacier. Team 3 searched the Zig Zag above 8500’.
The three teams converged around 1:15 a.m. on February 7 to develop new assignments. Team 1 then descended along the west rim of White River Canyon. They descended to Timberline Lodge and were out of the field around 3:30 a.m. Teams 2 and 3 completed sweeping the area above the Palmer lift and then rested in the Palmer Lift building until first light. They recommenced search efforts at 5:45 a.m. and proceeded to White River Canyon. They split into two teams again to search the east and west edges of the glacier. Team 3 climbed to the upper bench of the glacier where they encountered the subject’s body below Steel Cliff at approximately 8:00 a.m. It was immediately apparent that the subject had suffered traumatic injuries and was deceased.
A National Guard Helicopter arrived at Timberline Lodge shortly after with the intention of assisting in search efforts. The National Guard agreed to assist in evacuating the body. The helicopter lowered a tag line to PMR rescuers who guided the litter to the glacier. PMR packaged the body in the litter while the helicopter returned to Timberline Lodge on standby. The helicopter then returned and transported the litter to Timberline Lodge by 10:15 a.m. A snow cat transported rescuers back to Timberline Lodge and all units were out of the field around 11:30 a.m.
Communications were handled by Mountain Wave throughout the night and morning. Additional rescuers from PMR, the Crag Rats and Corvallis Mountain Rescue were entering the field when the body was first discovered and ultimately were not deployed.
Back country fatalities are always tragic for families, friends and rescuers. PMR urges back country users to travel with a buddy. We also urge climbers to be aware of the heightened dangers that winter conditions create in the Cascade Mountains. Self-arrest can be impossible on even moderate slopes when they are glazed with ice. Put crampons and ice axes into use before you need them. Don’t venture onto a slope where self-arrest is uncertain unless you are roped to a proper anchor as a backup. Be safe out there.