Wednesday, January 31, 2007
On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 31st PMR was called to respond to an accident involving a woman with a possible spinal injury on Mt Hood. The woman had been climbing with her husband and a friend on the South Side route and was 300ft below the summit when a large chunk of ice broke free and struck her lower back. The woman was in severe pain and had difficulty walking. The husband called 911 and asked for assistance.
By 4:30 pm the first PMR team members arrived at Timberline. An hour later, PMR had a hasty team, along with 2 medics from the AMR Reach and Treat (RAT) team heading up in a snow-cat to reach the injured woman. The snow-cat was able to drop off rescuers just above the Palmer Ski Lift, from there the rescuers continued up on foot. The PMR and RAT team reached the woman shortly after 8:00 pm. A second PMR team followed with more equipment and the Oregon Army National Guard 1042nd launched a Blackhawk from Salem to assist in a possible air evacuation.
After assessing the woman’s injuries, the weather conditions, and the length of time it would take to do a ground evacuation, Clackamas County Sheriff deputies decided to perform an air evacuation. By approximately 10:00 pm, the woman was airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and PMR teams returned to base.
Icefall can occur any time of the year. While most climbers expect it during the warmer spring climbing season, inversions (warm air overlying colder air in the valleys) often occur during winter. Under these conditions, rime ice begins to loosen and may fall unexpectedly. As you travel, be aware of changing conditions, such as small icefall, rock fall, and warming snow.