Oregon Climber Reported Dead In Mount Hood Fall

Published February 7, 2012 7:36PM (EST)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Search and rescue teams on Tuesday found the body of an experienced mountaineer who apparently died in a severe fall during icy conditions on Oregon's Mount Hood, authorities said.

Jared Townsley had made at least a dozen ascents of the mountain, which rises more than 11,000 feet east of Portland. His body was found at the base of cliffs at about 9,200 feet, the Clackamas County sheriff's office said. A statement said it appeared he "likely died from a severe fall."

The 32-year-old father of two was seen making a descent Monday, but was reported missing later when he missed a business call. Searchers had feared Townsley had fallen in the Crater Rock area, at about 10,000 to 10,500 feet, where two other climbers had lost their footing in recent days.

A 35-year-old Portland woman slid about 300 feet on ice on Sunday, suffering leg and rib injuries. She was taken to the hospital and is recovering.

On Saturday, one climber slid 1,100 feet, but a second nearby saw him and helped him off the mountain, said Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue, a veteran of many Mount Hood searches who was not involved in the operation Tuesday.

Right now, Mount Hood is tempting, Rollins said, but treacherous because of ice.

The weather has been clear and cool, he said, without the threat of winter storms that have trapped other climbers, notably a trio who died on the mountain in 2006.

"You get melt-freeze, melt-freeze, and it's going to turn into boilerplate ice ... imagine something as hard as steel," said Rollins.

The hard ice makes it difficult for a climber to stop a slide, to self-arrest, by using an ice ax, he said.

Despite the dangers of winter climbing, the thousands who get to the top of Oregon's tallest mountain often favor the season because warmer temperatures later on can melt the ice and loosen rocks.

Over the years Mount Hood has seen dozens of accidents and fatalities. Townsley was the first person to die while climbing Mount Hood since Robert Dale Wiebe of British Columbia died in a fall in 2010.

The most fatalities in one accident were seven students from Oregon Episcopal School and two adults who died after they dug a snow cave during a sudden storm in May 1986.

By Salon Staff

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