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Portland athlete feared lost snowshoeing on Mt. Hood

Stuart Tomlinson

GOVERNMENT CAMP -- More than 50 people and an Army helicopter scoured a flank of Mount Hood on Monday for a 49-year-old Portland snowshoer who disappeared Sunday. 

Searchers said they were baffled to find no trace of Fred Frauens by the time they stopped looking at 5 p.m. Monday. They planned to resume the search at 7 this morning with additional manpower from Hood River County. 

"The weather is our enemy," said Sgt. Nick Watt, search and rescue coordinator for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Snowstorms are expected to hit the Cascades beginning Wednesday. 

Search leaders said Frauens; his wife, Marion; and two sons went to Timberline Lodge about 10 a.m. Sunday. He went to snowshoe to the Hogback, at about 10,500 feet 
elevation, and told his family to expect him back at the parking lot by 5 p.m. 

"If he wasn't back by then, he told her that something probably went wrong," sheriff's Deputy Sean Collinson said. 

Weather conditions deteriorated rapidly Sunday, with fog at noon giving way to whiteout conditions by 1 p.m. Overnight temperatures dipped into the low 20s. 

Searchers assembled Sunday night, and by 6:30 a.m. Monday, more than 50 were combing the mountain's southwest side between Timberline Lodge and Government 

Rocky Henderson of Portland Mountain Rescue said searchers were operating on the assumption that Frauens would follow the mountain's fall line down Zigzag Canyon, 
which would put him in the trees below the timberline. 

Searchers blew whistles and air horns and called Frauens' name during their grid search Monday. They took reports from snowboarders who saw what may have been 
snowshoe tracks south of Timberline Ski Area. None led to Frauens. 

Henderson said searchers are "just baffled about where the heck he went" because no good clues were found. 

Until Sunday's weather turned snowy, recent cold, clear weather made for excellent climbing conditions, said Steve Rollins of Portland Mountain Rescue. 

Frauens, his wife and their sons moved from California in October. He works as a sign painter. Marion Frauens and her sons spent Sunday night and Monday at Timberline Lodge keeping posted on the search. 

Frauens had been to the mountain four times previously, officials said, including a snowshoe trip to the Hogback. This time, "he planned to go farther," Collinson said. 

Although Frauens is not experienced in backcountry travel, his family told officials he is a marathoner and is in excellent shape. 

Frauens carried apples and two water bottles, and was wearing a Gore-Tex jacket and pants. However, he did not carry a cellular phone, compass or Mountain Locator Unit, a tracking device used by many climbers. 

"If he would have been wearing an MLU, we would have found him last night," Henderson said. The units, which rent for $5 a weekend, are good only if users can activate 
them, he said. . 

A Black Hawk helicopter from the Oregon Army National Guard's 1042nd Air Ambulance base in Salem searched for about two hours but was hampered by rolling banks of clouds and snow that interfered with visibility. 

The search is the first this winter that does not have the resources of the Air Force's 939th Rescue Wing based in Portland. The wing's helicopters were transferred to Florida, and the Portland base is being converted to an air tanker wing. 

The Oregon Army National Guard's 168th Aviation Battalion from Pendleton is working with the 1042nd to provide a high-altitude platform for searching and refueling. 

"This is a mission that we've been designing since the 939th has gone away," said Capt. Sean Pierce, a pilot of the massive twin-rotor CH-57 Chinook helicopter.

Source: The Oregonian News Online


Search For Missing Snowshoer Called Off
The Associated Press
GOVERNMENT CAMP -  March 7, 2003

The search for a missing snowshoer on Mount Hood has been called off due to severe weather and the growing threat of avalanches, officials said Friday.

Fred Frauens has been missing since Sunday, when he set out on a solo snowshoeing excursion.

Search coordinators met Friday morning to discuss calling off the search, said Sgt. Nick Watt, with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Frauens' wife, mother and brother attended that meeting and agreed, Watt added.

"We have determined that the likelihood of his survivability is down to nothing, and for us to send those people out in these conditions would only put them in harm's way," Watt said.

"The snow is coming down at approximately four inches an hour, the avalanche danger is extreme, there are whiteout conditions at about 5,000 feet and my resource groups are exhausted."

Frauens' family says he is strong and athletic but has little winter survival experience. And, they say, he was poorly equipped.

He was not carrying any electronic devices - such as a cell phone, or a mountain locator device.

Frauens' wife, Marny Pierce, said her husband is a strong athlete who is resourceful enough to survive the fierce winter storm blasting Mount Hood.

Pierce said she believes her husband is still alive, even though blinding snow and fierce winds frustrated the search Thursday.

"I just sense that he's in a cave, some sort of enclosure, hanging in there," Pierce said on Thursday afternoon. "He never had an accident."

She said her husband shunned electronic equipment.

"He would rather get somewhere on foot than travel by any sort of machine because he likes the independence of it, and to be where other people aren't," Pierce said.

"He doesn't like using electronics or equipment."


Search for Missing Mt Hood Snowshoer Ends
Portland Mountain Rescue
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 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.



Webmeister's Note: I do not find a report that this lost man was ever found on the slopes of Mt. Hood. --Robert Speik 02-17-07



Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

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