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Search for Missing Mt Hood Snowshoer Ends
Updated Friday, March 7, 2003
 
Portland Mountain Rescue and other volunteers braved extreme weather and fatigue for more than four days while searching for a Portland man on Mount Hood.  The subject, in his 40's, went missing after a solo snowshoeing trek Sunday afternoon.  Despite the massive effort, no signs of the subject were found and, on Friday morning, the Clackamas County Sheriff called off the search.
 
During the week, nearly 40 PMR members searched the mountain's difficult terrain from the 11,239 foot summit to Government Camp at 4,000 feet and from Zigzag Canyon on the Southwest side to White River Glacier on the Southeast side.  Later in the week, a fierce Winter storm limited the search to just the areas below Timberline Lodge.
   

The search area for the missing subject
 
The weather was so bad on Thursday that base operations had to be moved down the mountain from Timberline Lodge to the Oregon State Police facility in Government Camp.
 
Over the course of the mission, many volunteers, including members of Corvallis Mountain Rescue, Eugene Mountain Rescue, Mount Hood Ski Patrol, American Medical Response Reach and Treat Team, Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue and Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Explorer Post No. 631, aided PMR in the massive search area covering well over 13 square miles (see the graphic above for further details).
 
Early in the week, a few short breaks in the weather allowed helicopters from U.S. Army National Guard units in Salem and Pendleton to conduct air searches.  However, clouds enveloping the mountain prevented the UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from being effective.
 
According to the subject's family, the man left Timberline Lodge (at 6,000 feet) on Sunday with the intended destination of the Hogsback, a ridge between 10,400 and 11,000 feet just to the South of the mountain's summit.  When the man did not return to the Lodge Sunday evening, his family alerted the Sheriff who then mobilized multiple search units.
 
Several mountain climbers on the South side of Mount Hood reported seeing a man on snowshoes between 8,000 and 9,000 feet on Sunday afternoon.  However, there was no way to determine the accuracy of the reports.  Even with those leads, overnight snowfall early in the week covered any tracks that may have been found, making the determination of the subject's whereabouts very difficult.  Copious amounts of snow later in the week further buried any evidence that may have been on the mountain.
 
On Monday and Tuesday, PMR searchers combed the upper mountain from the summit to Triangle Moraine and down White River Glacier.  PMR teams also searched the Paradise Park and Zigzag Canyon areas, just below Mississippi Head on Mount Hood's Southwest face.  At the same time, other volunteers covered much of the forested areas between Timberline Lodge and the town of Government Camp.
 
The weather worsened on Wednesday and became extreme on Thursday and Friday, as a strong jet stream pushed storms directly into Mount Hood.  Heavy snow and hurricane force winds, some measured over 100 MPH, limited the areas that could be covered, so the search concentrated on the forested areas below timberline.  It was hoped that the subject would have taken shelter in a tree well to escape the extreme weather; however, no evidence of such a structure was found.
 
Evidently, the subject did not have overnight survival gear and was not carrying any communications devices, such as a cell phone or a Mountain Locator Unit (MLU) transmitter.  A MLU is a device that, when activated, sends a signal that rescuers can use to help find the subject on Mount Hood.  It is available for a $5 rental fee at Portland-area outdoor shops and the Mount Hood Inn.
 
Without food, water and survival gear, the chances of the man surviving the harsh conditions over many days was very slim.  By Friday afternoon, with high avalanche conditions and extreme weather continuing on the mountain, the Sheriff called off the search.
 
The most probable theory at this time is that the man fell into a canyon or triggered an avalanche while descending the mountain in whiteout conditions on Sunday afternoon.
 
Teams will search again in the Spring when the snow melts and provides an opportunity to thoroughly cover the canyons and remote areas where the subject may be located.
 

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2001- Portland Mountain Rescue
P.O. Box 5391
Portland, Oregon  97228-5391
 
Phone: 503.222.PMRU (7678)
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