Rescuers: Mount Hood climbers should train, monitor weather
The weather-related death of 35-year-old Portland resident Miha Sumi on Mount Hood last week has prompted rescue agencies to remind people of the dangers of climbing the mountain and precautions climbers should take when planning a trek.
On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Sumi was airlifted to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland after sustaining severe injuries in a 700-foot fall on the Hogsback portion on Mount Hood's south face. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Sumi was climbing the mountain in a group of four, with the remaining climbers later rescued by volunteer searchers.
"Our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Miha Sumi," Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said in a bulletin. "Thanks to all the search groups for their tremendous work on this complex search-and-rescue mission. Every SAR mission is a team effort requiring help and careful coordination from teams of dedicated first-response partners and volunteers."
Around 2 p.m., rescuers with the AMR Reach and Treat group reached the remaining climbers of Sumi's group, who had sheltered in place. They learned that Dan Parks, an additional climber not with that group, had sustained minor injuries but was mobile.
Among the group, 32-year-old Kimberley Anderson of Beaverton, according to rescuers' reports, became unable to move and had to later be secured to a sled and transported down the mountain. The rest of the group was safely led down to Timberline Lodge and arrived by 6:40 p.m. The group aiding Anderson arrived 30 minutes later, barely missing impending winter weather, which hit the mountain communities later that night.
The five climbers rescued were Sumi, Thongthap, Parks, Kimberley Anderson and Matt Zovrtink.
Sadly, tragedies like this are not new to those whose responsibility it is to rescue and protect.
"This situation was a little unusual in that we had the main incident and also another group of climbers (who needed help)," Mountain Wave Search and Rescue President Russell Gubele told The Post. "But every year it seems like we have a few, and it's unfortunate."
Gubele said the main advice he and his colleagues offer all those interested in climbing the mountain is to keep track of the weather.
"The climbing day (on Feb. 13) was beautiful, but the temperature was forecasted to rise," Gubele explained, adding that freezing temperatures were really only maintaining at the summit level between 10,500 and 11,000 feet. Warmer temperatures below were softening the ice.
"There is an inherent danger when you're in those situations. ... Most of what we hear about this year is ice falling and hitting people."
During the rescue mission to retrieve Sumi and the other climbers, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Brian Jensen reported that "we do know ice and rock are falling on (the climbers) and creating treacherous conditions for the climbers as well as our rescuers."
"It's a dangerous place," Gubele noted. "It's not the walk up the trail people think it is."
Besides monitoring weather conditions, Gubele recommends people seek training before trekking up the mountain. In an effort to instill that knowledge at a young age, Mountain Wave personnel offer demonstrations and classes at local schools.
"(The mountain) is what you would call somewhat unregulated," Gubele explained. "There's no entry gate or test you have to take (to climb Mount Hood)."
That doesn't mean people should climb unprepared or ill-equipped, he added.