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Experienced climber dies in solo fall on Mt. Hood

Searchers find body of Jared Townsley, climber who went missing on Mount Hood
The Oregonian
February 7, 2012
By Kimberly A. C. Wilson
The Oregon search and rescue volunteers searched on Mount Hood for Jared Townsley, 31, an experienced climber from Tigard. Townsley left Timberline Sunday night and was expected to return by 9 a.m. Monday.

When he didn't join a work-related telephone conference call, his brother alerted authorities. An Oregon National Guard helicopter has joined the search. The National Guard typically does not participate in air
searches unless it's a life-or-death situation.

Searchers this morning found the remains of the experienced mountain climber who vanished early Monday while descending Mount Hood.

Authorities located the body of Jared Townsley, a 32-year-old married father of two from Tigard.

A helicopter with the Oregon Army National Guard has airlifted the climber's body off the mountain.

Volunteers with two major search and rescue organizations -- Mountain Wave Search & Rescue and Portland Mountain Rescue -- this morning headed up the mountain toward Crater Rock, the area Townsley was last seen Monday morning. The area has been particularly perilous recently, authorities said. Three climbers have fallen in the area in the past three days, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office officials said. A crew of
searchers followed tracks just after dawn and found Townsley's remains.

Townsley had fallen into the White River Canyon, an area at the 9,000-foot level. He was injured in the fall but searchers do not know if the fall itself was fatal.

"It's very windy and icy," Deputy Scott Meyers, incident commander with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. "Once you get sliding on ice, it's hard to self arrest."

Authorities said they're puzzled by Townsley's location. Given his route, they assumed he would have descended to the west of Crater Rock. His body was found to the east.

Searchers could not locate his cell phone. He was not equipped with a mountain locator unit, a device that helps searchers pinpoint a climber's location.

Townsley left Timberline Sunday night and was expected to return by 9 a.m. Monday. When he didn't join a work-related telephone conference call, his brother alerted authorities. On a climbing registry kept at
Timberline Lodge, Townsley wrote that he was equipped to be on the mountain through Monday night.

Sgt. James Rhodes, a sheriff's spokesman, said Townsley was last seen by other climbers about 8:30 a.m. Monday in the area of Crater Rock. He was descending the mountain at the time. Rhodes said the sighting is consistent with what authorities believe was Townsley's timeline for summiting and descending the mountain. They think he planned to be off the mountain by 9 a.m. and planned to attend a work conference call two hours later.

Gregg Townsley, Townsley's father, thanked searchers in a statement released by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Townsley declined to say much more about his son, other than he was a skilled climber who
had scaled the mountain at least a dozen times, including a half-dozen solo climbs.

His older brother, Joshua, posted the following message on his Facebook page this morning: "It is with great sadness that we learned this morning that Jared took a tremendous and final fall on Mt Hood. We will miss
him as we know you will. Thank you for all of your prayers."

Joshua Townsley, who lives in Portland, is executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Vancouver, Wash. His sister, Rachel Stramel of Cornelius, is pastor of the Orenco Presbyterian Church.

Overnight weather conditions on the mountain were challenging. Miles Higa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said wind gusts reached 40 mph at the 7,000-foot level. Temperatures overnight were
about 27 degrees at that elevation.

Just a day before Townsley's death, another climber was rescued from Mount Hood.

Megan J. Coker, 35, of Southwest Portland, suffered leg and rib injuries in a 300-foot tumble on glacial ice near Crater Rock around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Rescue teams mobilized quickly, reaching Coker around 3 p.m. in an area above Palmer Lift. Coker, who was climbing with a group, was brought to safety by late afternoon.

"It's very icy, especially below Crater Rock," said Reach and Treat paramedic Joseph Rabinowitz, one of the rescuers. "This is the second fall we have responded to this weekend -- fortunately, the first climber was
uninjured. Climbers should exercise extreme caution while descending."

Rescuers included Clackamas County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, AMR's Reach and Treat team, Mt. Hood Ski Patrol and Portland Mountain Rescue. Meanwhile, CCSO Search and Rescue deputies and Mountain
Wave Emergency Communications volunteers set up a base at Timberline Lodge, and coordinated the entire operation.

Townsley was the first person to die while climbing Mount Hood since Robert Dale Wiebe, 58, of Langley, British Columbia, died in a fall on the Coe Glacier in June of 2010.

The last person to die on the mountain was Taylur DeWolf, 17, of Sandy, who died while snowboarding in January at Mt. Hood Meadows.



Injured climber rescued after 200-foot fall on Mt. Hood

Injured climber rescued after 200-foot fall on Mt. Hood
By Staff
February 6, 2012

A 35-year-old mountain climber fell about 200 ft. down the south side of Mount Hood Sunday, a spokesman with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said.

The climber, identified as Megan Coker of Portland, did not suffer life-threatening injuries, but injured her ribs and leg, according to Sgt. James Rhodes. Coker was conscious after the fall and a dozen rescuers from
three agencies worked to get her off the mountain safely.

In a statement Monday, Coker thanked the first responders who came to her aid and the climbing teams who were with her on the mountain when she fell.

"I also want to send a very special thank you to Candi Cook and Darrell Weston and their climbing teams," said Coker. "I was very lucky to have the teams near by when I fell. The two, who are trained in mountain
first aid, went above and beyond in their care of me. Candi and Darrell laid down on the icy slope to share their body heat for almost six hours. While their climbing teams boiled water on their camp stove to make
warm packs that were placed all around me. They also packed the three of us with sleeping bags and jackets to keep our bodies off the icy terrain while we waited for rescue crews."

Corey Smith with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said there was a 2,000-foot elevation gain between the top of the chairlift and where Coker was injured. Coker fell near Crater Rock, deputies said.

Coker was with a group of 6 or 7 people. An ambulance was waiting to take her to the hospital, Rhodes said.



A touching tribute to Jared Townsley from his family and friends



Jared Townsley, climber who fell on Mount Hood, died of skull fractures

Jared Townsley, climber who fell on Mount Hood, died of skull fractures
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
By Kimberly A.C. Wilson, The Oregonian

A Tigard climber who fell to his death last week on Mount Hood died as a result of head injuries, reports the Oregon State Medical Examiner.

Jared Townsley, 32, summited just after 1 a.m. on Feb. 6 and fell while descending Illumination Rock, about 1,700 feet below the peak of the 11,245-foot mountain, said Sgt. James Rhodes, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Townsley, an experienced climber, suffered skull fractures when he tumbled roughly 500 feet, said Dr. Larry Lewman, deputy state medical examiner.

Searchers found Townsley's body a day after he was last seen by other climbers.

A memorial service for Townsley was set for Feb. 18 in Beaverton.
-- Kimberly A. C. Wilson



What can mountain climbers learn from this tragic death?

Jared Townsley, 31, reportedly was an experienced climber. He had summited Mt. Hood "at least a dozen times, including a half dozen solo climbs". He planned to climb Mt. Hood at least once in every calendar month. He had climbed other Oregon Cascades volcanic peaks.

He was reported over due shortly after the time he had set for his return. His cell phone was not found; a SPOT-2 communicator was not reported. (A Mt. Hood mountain locator beacon is not required.)

He was found after a long search by two major SAR organizations and an Oregon National Guard helicopter, more than 24 hours after he was reported missing by his family.

Jared Townsley was climbing solo.

No one noticed his sliding fall. Slides on steep hard snow or ice slopes can quickly reach speeds described as more than 30 to 40 miles per hour, slowed from free fall speed, basically only by the friction of clothing and gear until soft snow, less steep slopes or talus, slows and stops the fall.

In contrast, another climber, Megan Coker, with a group of 6 or 7 companions, slid down about 200 to 300 feet in the same area a day before, was seriously injured, observed by her companions, reached and stabilized. An ordinary cell phone was used immediately, to call 911. She was kept warm with Essential insulation from the snow, body heat from two climber companions and given warm drinks from snow, melted with an Essential stove, for for almost 6 hours before Rescue teams reached her. Other groups climbing Mt. Hood contributed trained emergency care and material aid.

Weather conditions (day and night temperatures, sun/clouds and winds) had combined on Mt. Hood to form very hard ice conditions in a normally non-technical area, less a problem going up in the early morning than going down the steep slopes with crampons and ice axe. Winds reported gusting to 40 mph at the 7,000 foot level can make balance difficult. Temperatures overnight were about 27 degrees at that elevation.

It is not reported whether Jared was using ski poles in his descent below Crater Rock, or using a traditional long ice axe, when he slipped away down the slope. In any event, traditional ice axe 'belay' and ice axe 'arrest' can be nearly impossible in hard ice conditions.

It was not reported initially, whether Jared died from trauma or from hypothermia during the 24 hours it took to locate and reach him. Now we know that he died from "skull fractures".

It would have been helpful to climbers who study these accident reports to know whether or not Jared was wearing a helmet while climbing Mt. Hood. There is significant risk of lethal ice fall under certain conditions on this volcano. A climbing helmet is normally required during ice axe belay and arrest practice. A wearing climbing helmet on Mt. Hood is recommended by Guides and Mountaineering Club Leaders.
--Robert Speik




See yonder height! 'Tis far away -- unbidden comes the word "Impossible!"

"Not so," says the mountaineer.  "The way is long, I know; its difficult -- it may be dangerous."

"It's possible, I'm sure; I'll seek the way, take counsel of my brother mountaineers,
and find out how they have reached similar heights and learned to avoid the dangers."

He starts (all slumbering down below); the path is slippery and may be dangerous too. 
Caution and perseverance gain the day -- the height is reached! and those beneath cry, "Incredible! 'Tis superhuman!"

This is a passage we found on page 161 of "Scrambles Amongst the Alps" by Edward Wymper,
first published in 1871 and reprinted 1981 by Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.




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


Read more . . .
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