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Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy

Unsettling Events
The Tacoma Public Library

“Pointing fingers in the Mount Hood Tragedy. Panel blames leader, parent blames school,”
Jack Broom and Steve Bovey
The Seattle Times. July 25, 1986

Investigators say poor decisions by a faculty climbing leader led to nine deaths in a school-sponsored climb of Mount Hood in May - but one angry parent says top school administrators can’t escape blame for the tragedy.

“This was a school event. . . . This was the school’s death march,” Richard Haeder of Portland said last night. His 17-year-old son, Richard Jr., died on the mountain.

Haeder’s comments came after a five-member investigative committee said the Rev. Thomas Goman, his judgment impaired by cold and fatigue, pressed climbers from Oregon Episcopal School to continue far beyond the point where they should have turned back.

“The prudent course of action” would have been for the students to turn back at the 8,600-foot level - about eight hours before they did, according to the committee.

The report accused Goman of “unsafe mountain practices” in urging the group on despite general fatigue, illness and bad weather.

Goman, along with one other faculty member and seven students, perished in the second-worst climbing disaster in the country’s history.

The five-member investigative committee, appointed by school officials, recommends a two-year moratorium on the school’s Mount Hood climb, and lists a number of measures to improve the program’s safety.

But Haeder said the school is unfairly trying to place the blame on Goman instead of accepting responsibility for the incident.

“No matter how many fingers you point at the dead, there’s no way you’re going to erase the school’s responsibility,” said Haeder.

“It’s almost criminal, the lack of supplies the school had them take,’ he said, and also blamed school officials for not providing more trained guides for the outing.

Haeder said he holds the school “four-square responsible for everything that happened on the mountain” but would not say if he plans a lawsuit.

Parents of some of the other victims were supportive of school officials and Goman.

The priest was “a seasoned leader of novice climbers, and very conservative,” said Don McClave, father of Susan McClave, 18, whose body was found huddled with others in a snow cave on the mountain.

Asked if a lawsuit may result from the incident, McClave said, “I certainly hope there will not be. I don’t know what purpose that would serve.”

Another parent, Dick Sandvik, whose 16-year-old son, Eric, died after being found outside the snow cave, said, “I’m certainly not inclined to harm the school. It provided my son with a lot of excellent benefits.”

Goman’s wife, Mar, said she doesn’t dispute the committee’s findings, but said, “If Tom made decisions which reflected poor judgment, they were entirely out of character and inconsistent with his decision-making history. Everyone who knew Tom will remember him as a clear thinker, a committed friend and a conscientious leader.”

The Mount Hood climb was an annual event for sophomores at Oregon Episcopal School and was part of the school’s “Basecamp” wilderness-experience program.

Of the 19 climbers who started the hike at Timberline Lodge at 3 a.m. on May 12, six turned back early because of illness or exhaustion.

The rest climbed to above the 10,000-foot level by about 3 p.m. when they were turned back by poor weather conditions.

At night, the climbers dug a snow cave for protection. The next day, one student, Molly Schula, and a guide, Ralph Summers, walked down the mountain to summon help.

The following day, May 14, search parties found three climbers who had died from hypothermia. The other eight were found on May 15 in the snow cave. Only two, Brinton Clark and Giles Thompson, survived.

After the incident, school officials appointed five committee members, including nationally recognized climbing experts, to investigate the tragedy and the Basecamp program.

Among its findings, the committee faulted the expedition’s:

Timing. “One of the primary culprits in this accident was the need to try to adhere to a schedule,” the report said. It said time pressure made the climbers unwilling to delay the expedition, even though the forecast called for bad weather.

Equipment. The report says the climbers should have had better boots and clothing, more shovels and bivouac sacks and should have carried an altimeter and a topographical map of the mountain.

Supervision. Investigators found a conflict between Goman’s role and that of Summers, a trained guide whose job with the group was to be a “technical assistant.” The report says Summers knew some students wanted to turn back, but he deferred to Goman’s leadership.

The report also says that the ratio of two trained guides to 17 other climbers was insufficient.
Jack Broom and Steve Bovey, “Pointing fingers in the Mount Hood Tragedy. Panel blames leader, parent blames school,” The Seattle Times. July 25, 1986. p. A-1.


“Oregon School Drops wilderness program,”
The Seattle Times. July 18, 1986

The Oregon Episcopal School has suspended its Basecamp Wilderness Education Program pending the outcome of an investigation into last spring’s accident that killed nine climbers on Mount Hood.

The school will resume the program early next year under a full-time director.

Malcolm H. Manson, headmaster of the small private school in Portland, said yesterday that while the school will continue its commitment to wilderness education, it will suspend the wilderness program for six months. One goal of that program is for sophomore students to at least attempt to climb Mount Hood.

Last spring, a climbing party became stuck in a snowstorm. Nine students and faculty members died of exposure on the mountain. Following that accident, the school formed a committee of climbing experts to investigate. Findings are to be released July 31.

Manson said the school was suspending the program now because it is too close to the start of the new school year to act on the committee’s recommendations.

‘We want to take the most responsible and conservative approach to making any necessary changes,” Manson said in a press release.

Manson said the school will conduct a nationwide search for a full-time director for the Basecamp Program. He said the job description will be drafted based on the committee’s findings.
“Oregon School drops wilderness program,” The Seattle Times. July 18, 1986, p. C-2.

“Guide says leader pushed for summit in Hood tragedy”
Seattle Times. July 17, 1986

The guide on a climb up Mount Hood that ended in nine deaths has told the victims’ families that the group’s leader decided to push for the summit despite early problems, according to a report by a Portland television station.

In a copyright story broadcast last night by KGW-TV, the station narrated excerpts of a report on the ill-fated climb. The report was written by professional mountaineer Ralph Summers, who accompanied the group.

The report, dated June 9, was issued by the Oregon Episcopal

School to the families of seven students and two faculty members who died in Oregon’s worst mountain-climbing accident. It has not been publicly released.

The television station quoted Summers, 30, as saying he discussed with the Rev. Thomas Goman the option of turning back early in the May 12 ascent because another adult adviser, Marion Horwell, was having difficulty breathing.

“She was not an experienced climber,” Summers said. “I discussed with Father Tom Goman the possibility of turning back or going on. It was Tom’s decision to move on. Tom at least wanted to make a token effort to the summit.”

Summers’ report said the group finally turned back as one of the students, 15-year-old Patrick McGinness, began suffering from hypothermia.

In a raging spring blizzard, the group wrapped McGinness in a sleeping bag and another climber got inside to help warm him. Later, the boy was taken out of the sleeping bag, but he could not walk on his own.

By early evening, Summers’ report said, Summers had made the decision to spend the night on the 11,235-foot peak.

Summers and 17-year-old student Molly Schula were able to reach help, but rescuers found only two survivors.

Horwell’s brother, Don Penater of Pacific City, was the only person to comment on Summers’ report.

Penater said today he still has some questions about what happened on the climb but will wait until the end of the month - when the school is scheduled to release the results of its investigation into the accident - before coming to any conclusions.

That investigation is being conducted by four climbing experts, and Penater said he is confident that it will provide a detailed explanation of what went wrong on the climb.

“I’m not an expert, and right now I only have my opinion,” said Penater. “But when the report comes out, it might stir up some stuff.”

As in past years, Summers is again working for the Pacific Crest Outward Bound program in Portland.

Vic Walsh, executive director of the program, said that Summers was hired before the Mount Hood accident to supervise two programs this summer. After the fatal climb, Walsh said he and Summers agreed that he should limit his involvement with Outward Bound to non-supervisory activities until all the facts are in on the Mount Hood tragedy.
“Guide says leader pushed for summit in Hood tragedy,” Seattle Times. July 17, 1986, p. B-3.

The Seattle Times. June 10, 1986

The school that sponsored the Mount Hood climbing expedition that claimed nine lives last month has formed an independent committee to investigate the disaster.

The five-member committee, which will include mountaineering experts from around the country, has been asked to issue a report by July 31, Mariann Koop, spokeswoman for Oregon Episcopal School, said yesterday.

Seven students and two faculty members died after a spring blizzard on the mountain east of Portland on May 12.

“We all want to know what happened. The investigation will establish the facts and we will know,” Koop said at a news conference.

The committee will be headed by Jed Williamson of Hanover, NH, a board member of the American Alpine Club and a consultant in outdoor education, Koop said.

Meanwhile, the two 16-year-old climbers found alive in a snow cave continued to recover in Portland hospitals.

Giles Thompson of Longview, Wash., remains in serious but stable condition at Providence Medical Center, but shows signs of improving, spokesman Dan LaGrande said.

Brinton Clark of Portland remains in good condition at Emanuel Hospital’s rehabilitation center, spokeswoman Shoshana Blauer said. No date for her release has been set.
“School forms panel to probe Mount Hood climbing disaster,” The Seattle Times. June 10, 1986 p. B-3.

The Seattle Times. May 22, 1986

Even as students and faculty from the Oregon Episcopal School eulogized their dead today, some of the most respected mountaineers in the Northwest were questioning the circumstances and decisions that led to the deaths of nine climbers on Mount Hood last week.

The mountaineering expert say accounts they have read of the hike don’t square with what they think should have been done when the group encountered the snowstorm. They say the storm had been forecast and that the group should have been able to see it coming. They also question the wisdom of trying to wait out a storm in a shallow snow cave without food or heat.

John O’Neill, general manager of Timberline Lodge, says a lodge employee warned one of the school hikers that the group shouldn’t try to climb the mountain on Monday, telling her that they’d have to come rescue them the following day.

Contrary to reports that the storm came up suddenly, weather forecasts had predicted a severe, extended storm. The top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds all day, and that the temperature was in the low 30s with 30 mph winds, O’Neill said.

He said a two-man work crew from the lodge watched the climbing party hike into the clouds, and that they had made “very slow progress” during the early hours, and easiest portion, of the hike.

The two questions mountaineers are asking most often are: Who was actually leading the climbing party, and why didn’t they turn back earlier?

A guide for Lou Whittaker’s climbing school, Rainier Mountaineering Inc., canceled a trip up Mount Hood the day before the Oregon Episcopal School’s climb because of bad weather and the extended forecast.

Mike Volk, who operates Timberline Mountain Guides on Mount Hood, also canceled a scheduled climb because of the weather. Volk was also critical of the group’s decision to dig into the side of the mountain rather than hike to safety.

“I personally would not have done that,” said Volk. “I’d personally beat them down the mountain to get them out.”

Ralph Summers, a guide who hiked down the mountain for help, and school officials could not be reached for comment, but he has said the school group stopped on the mountain because one of the hikers developed hypothermia. Summers has also said that the storm came up suddenly.

Both Volk and Whittaker said they couldn’t be too critical of Summers without actually knowing the conditions he was working under, and whether he or another adult member of the group was actually the person in charge.

Whittaker, while refusing to place blame for the accident, was particularly critical of the explanation that the climbing party got hit by a surprise storm and was slowed down by a hiker with hypothermia.

Whittaker said bad weather is never a good excuse for accidents in the Cascade Mountains, and that experienced guides should always be watching for hypothermia.

“I don’t want to shoot anyone down without knowing all the facts, but there is no such thing as a surprise storm,” said Whittaker.

“There were indicators. And you don’t get hypothermia real fast. It’s no excuse to slow a party down because you don’t extend yourself that far. You only climb with the strength of your weakest member.”

Summers appears to have been the person in charge of the hike, and he appears to have had considerable experience on Mount Hood. He is a ski instructor there and is considered an experienced mountaineer by the Pacific Crest Outward Bound School in Portland.

Vic Walsh, director of the school, called Summers “a very skilled and high-quality instructor.”

All of the mountaineers questioned say they hope the Oregon Episcopal School will investigate the accident. If they don’t, said Walsh and Volk, mountaineering groups probably will investigate on their own.

The small, private school was closed today for the memorial service, and officials could not be reached for comment.

Walsh said Summers had come to the Outward Bound school to talk privately with friends there about the accident.

“We’ve done some counseling with him in terms of talking to Ralph last week,” said Walsh. “There’s no way he’s not going to carry the brunt of this, and he knows that. It’s a fact of life, and it’s a tough one.”
“Climbing experts raise questions about Hood climb,” The Seattle Times. May 22, 1986, p. A-1

 “A student who turned back reflects on Mount Hood climb,”
Marsha King, The Seattle Times. May 16, 1986

From the moment she set foot on Mount Hood in the early dark Monday morning, 16-year-old Courtney Boatsman had a weird, nagging feeling she should get off the mountain.

“It was something that was bugging me all the way up. Kind of like a voice saying ‘Go down,’ “ she said yesterday in the office at Oregon Episcopal School, which sponsored the fateful climb.

Eventually, Courtney listened to that voice and became one of the five young climbers and a parent to turn back before the cloudless sky suddenly turned white with blinding snow and wind.

That night she would be among the first to notify school authorities that the climbing team still on the mountain must be in trouble. In the end, only four of the climbing mates she tried to help - two who walked out and two among those found in an ice cave by rescuers - would survive.

But for a few hours that sunny Monday morning, the athletic teen-ager resisted the urge to quit. “You’re just feeling lazy,” she told herself. It was beautiful climbing weather and she felt warm and strong. Then, halfway up, her back began to hurt, the result of hours of throwing the javelin and discus at school. And her friend, Lorca Fitschen, unexpectedly became sick, hunched over and crying from a previous injury aggravated by the strenuous climb.

The Rev. Tom Goman, teacher at the school and leader of the 19-person party, asked Courtney to consider quitting to take Lorca back down the mountain. Hilary Spray, also ill, already had descended with her mother and would leave for home.

“I wasn’t sure. I just had this feeling that it was important that I go down,” Courtney said yesterday.

She and Lorca left their schoolmates, who were exuberant, an optimism fed by feeling prepared and by knowing that the trek had been successful 36 times before.

“They felt pretty good about it because of the training. They felt that was all they needed to know,” the young woman recalled.

The climb by sophomores is part of Basecamp, a four-year, high-school-level program required for graduation from the small private school. If a student elects, for good reason, not to make the climb, he or she must complete 40 hours of community service. Most choose Mount Hood.

No one is forced to reach the top. But they must complete the training courses and then climb far enough to get a taste of the mountain with a pack on their back.

Oregon Episcopal School has fostered this wilderness education because “it teaches leadership skills, responsibility and preparedness and instills the spirit of adventure,” said Mariann Koop, school spokesperson, last night. “Students learn safety and gain a real sense of community and shared experience.”

Training includes several hours of conditioning climbs, and lessons in how to conserve energy on the mountain and the use of climbing equipment. Students get hands-on experience with ropes, carabiners, harnesses and slings, plus instruction on different ways to save oneself using an ice axe.

Goman, head of the sophomore Basecamp program for the past nine years, was an expert climber, and insisted everything about an expedition be “right to the tiniest detail,” said Lynn Boatsman, Courtney’s mother. Two weeks ago Goman climbed the mountain, to determine how and where winter weather might have made the trek too difficult.

“He told the kids how their boots should feel when they left home and how they should feel when they got to the mountain to climb,” said Lynn Boatsman.

If the boots slipped on easily at home, they weren’t wearing enough socks, she said. Though this was to be only a day climb, Goman’s list of what to take was extensive: ice axes, helmets, slings, carabiners, harnesses, all kinds of clothing and lots of food. Each climber had to wear three pairs of wool socks, layers of clothing and carry an extra pair of gloves. Students were checked for this equipment before boarding the bus Sunday night, said Boatsman.

Later, she was told, Goman would give up all his extra clothing to the kids on the climb.

When Courtney and Lorca left the group Monday morning, Goman told them they could expect the rest of the climbers back by 6 p.m. A few hours later, the young women were joined by two other climbers: John Whitson, who seemed sick with indigestion, and Michael Garrett from Entiat, Wash., who accompanied him.

That afternoon the four fooled around at the lodge, occasionally going outside to view their classmates in steady ascent.

At 3:30 p.m., clouds suddenly “started moving in really fast,” said Courtney, and by 3:45 p.m. the teen-agers at the mountain’s base couldn’t see anything above.

At 9 p.m., Courtney and the group’s bus driver went to the Mount Hood day lodge and anxiously began the series of calls that finally brought help.

Yesterday, as the tragedy unfolded, anxiety-filled parents and students milled around the school’s administrative building, occasionally clustering at the TV hoping for a positive recent report.

Courtney, her close-cropped, curly-haired head held high, calmly stood in the lobby offering strength and comfort to kids who often approached her near tears. A tragedy like this, she explained, must be dealt with gently.

Later that evening - when those who waited knew the party had been found but didn’t know how many would live - the school sponsored a counseling session to teach parents to help their children deal with grief.

This morning, Lynn Boatsman said she still has such faith in the school and the climb that she would send either of her daughters up again.

Courtney calls the accident “just one of those things that happens. I would still go up again, I’d still feel safe.”

Her attitude, too, was positive today. “That there were survivors at all was excellent; was really, really good.”
Marsha King, “A student who turned back reflects on Mount Hood climb,” The Seattle Times. May 16, 1986


“Mount Hood tragedy, three critical, search continues for missing eight as doctors try to revive climbers”
 Eric Nalder, Jack Broom and Dave Birkland, The Seattle Times. May 14, 1986

Three climbers stranded during a school-sponsored climb on Mount Hood were found this morning, and doctors were attempting to revive them, authorities said. Eight others from the party stranded on the mountain since Monday remained missing.

The three climbers, one female and two males, were airlifted to Portland’s Emmanuel Hospital, where attempts were begun to revive them, said hospital spokeswoman Paula Anderson.

Dr. Jonathan Hill told Anderson the three had body temperatures of about 45 degrees Fahrenheit when they were brought in. They were being slowly warmed and kept alive on life-support systems.

The climbers were found at the 8,200-foot level of the 11,239-foot mountain, said Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Russ Williams. The climbing group was from Oregon Episcopal School in Portland.

Williams said it was not known if the three hospitalized climbers were adults or teen-agers.

He said it’s believed the three had been trying to hike down to get help.

More than two dozen relatives of the missing people had gathered in a day lodge at Timberline by late morning today, waiting for word of those still missing.

Hospital officials said there is a chance the three climbers could be revived. The climbers, whose names were not released, were officially listed in critical condition.

“It is difficult to know their condition. They have to be warmed up first,” David Long told United Press International. Long is director of the hospital’s Life Flight helicopter service, which brought two of the climbers to the hospital.

“The doctors have to take it step by step and very slowly and warm them up and hope that their life lines will follow,” Long said.

The search for the missing climbers focused on the southeast

flanks of the mountain where 45 people and two helicopter crews searched through the day, authorities said.

The remaining members of the climbing party have been stranded since Monday when hazardous weather enveloped the mountain. Searchers found no trace of a snow cave where the climbers were thought to be staying, Williams said.

Two others in the “wilderness experience” group were able to hike out early yesterday and alert authorities.

Foul weather and winds gusting to 60 mph made it impossible last night to locate the stranded group.

The climbing party that left Portland in the early hours Monday included 11 sophomores, three adults from the school and four advanced climbing-team members with extensive experience.

Five people _ three of the students and two of the professional climbers _ turned back during the day Monday for various reasons, such as altitude sickness and wetness, according to Mariann Koop, a spokesman for the school.

The rest of the group was expected back about 6 p.m. Monday, but were caught in bad weather that forced them to seek refuse in a snow cave.

The entire group spent about two hours digging the cave by hand, according to Molly Schula, 17, one of the two who walked out, according to The Associated Press. She said the cramped cave was cold and wet inside, but provided enough shelter that the climbers were able to sleep off and on.

Schula said the climbing party decided to dig in when whiteout conditions got so bad “there was no distinction between the sky and snow.” She said the group was within 14 feet of the summit when the storm struck.

Schula walked off the peak with professional mountaineer Ralph Summers, 30, yesterday morning. They found help at a ski resort 16 miles from their starting point at Timberline Lodge.

They had hiked down to get help and pinpoint the location of the cave, Koop said.

Summers and Schula left because he was an experienced guide and she was one of the strongest members of the group.

“I told them we would keep walking until we found help or until we died,” Summers said.

“I was not prepared for something like this,” Schula said. “I kept thinking I would never get home and see my mother again. All I wanted to do was go home.”

The climb of Mount Hood was a routine outing for high-school sophomores in the school’s “wilderness experience program,” Koop said.

“This is the 36th year, and we’ve done the climb every year. It teaches preparedness, responsibility and leadership,” she said.

Some classes were cancelled today at the private school in southwest Portland, which has an enrollment of 576 students in preschool through high-school grades. “Right now we have people doing everything they can to offer support to our students who have relatives on the trip,” Koop said.

The names of the two adults who remained with the group are Thomas Gorman and Marion Horwell, but their ages were not known, Clackamas County deputies said.

The names and ages of the teen-agers are: Richard Hader, 15; Eric Sandvick, 15; Pat Mc Guinness, 15; Giles Thompson, 15, of Longview, WA.; Erin O’Leary, 15; Tasha Amy, 15; Alisa Litzenberger, 15; Briton Clark, 15; and Susan McClave, 17.

Mount Hood, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most climbed mountains, has been the scene of several spring climbing tragedies.

The worst accident on the mountain occurred the same day as the worst climbing accident in the history of Mount Rainier, four years ago.

Five climbers died on Mount Hood on June 21, 1981, as the result of a fall during high winds and blowing snow conditions. In all, 10 climbers were involved in the fall. That same day, 11 climbers were crushed by an icefall on Mount Rainier.

Two Eugene, Ore., men survived for five days burrowed deep into the snow during a vicious storm on Mount Hood in January 1971. The men huddled in a snow cave in a single sleeping bag under subzero temperatures and winds up to 80 miles per hour at the 10,000 foot level of the mountain.

Two climbers in March 1979 survived two days in a snow cave at 8,000 feet. But in July 1980, doctors worked unsuccessfully for more than four hours to save the life of a 28-year-old Oregon man who was nearly frozen when an Air Force Reserve helicopter pulled him from the mountain in April 1980.
(This report was compiled by Times staff reporters Eric Nalder, Jack Broom and Dave Birkland.)

“Bodies of three climbers found on Mount Hood”
Seattle Times. May 14, 1986

The bodies of three climbers stranded on Mount Hood were found this morning, but there was no sign of eight other people missing since Monday, authorities said.

The bodies were found at the 7,500-foot level of the mountain, said Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy Russ Williams. He said it was not known if they were adults or teen-agers.

At least two helicopters and an expanded ground team were searching the southeast side of the mountain for the other members of a group of two adults and nine teen-agers who were reported missing when hazardous weather enveloped the mountain.

Searchers found no trace of a snow cave where the climbers were thought to be staying, Deputy Sheriff Russ Williams of Clackamas County said this morning.

Whiteout conditions that limited visibility to less than 2 feet and winds gusting to 60 mph made it impossible to locate the stranded group last night.

The party of 13 climbers left Timberline Lodge early Monday. A search began early yesterday when the group failed to return as expected at 6 p.m. Monday.
“Bodies of three climbers found on Mount Hood,” Seattle Times. May 14, 1986


Jim Miller, “The Oregon Episcopal School Climb,” Signpost for Northwest Trails. XXV (May, 1990)

On April 5, 1990, a jury directed the Oregon Episcopal School to pay $500,000 to the parents of a 16-year old student who died on Mount Hood For most Oregonians the trial was a rehash of what they had forgotten, or perhaps wanted to forget. It had happened four years before, and all the pain was being brought back to them.

But the story needs re-telling ... if only in the hope that preparedness and common sense will ever prevail when novices are led into the wilderness.

This story is excerpted from courtroom stories appearing recently in The Oregonian:

It was Monday, May 12, 1986, early morning. The Oregon Episcopal School group arrived at Timberline Lodge to climb the mountain.

Leaden clouds covered the skies above Mount Hood and a storm was predicted. The church group sorted itself out and started up the mountain. The party dwindled as some of the students became chilled and returned to Timberline.

The climb was led by the Rev. Torn Gornan of the OES, and assisted by Ralph Summers, who had been enlisted for the purpose. Marion Horwell, dean of students, was the only other adult. Goman and Summers conferred at Silcox Hut, and decided to continue up the mountain. Ten teenagers followed.

The climb proceeded very slowly. At long last they reached the hogback, just 1000 feet below the summit. Here the storm enveloped them with snow and howling winds. The group turned back. As they descended, Patrick McGinnis became weak and shaking from hypothermia, and had to be supported.

Summers soon realized they were off-course and halted the party near White River canyon, at about the 8000-foot level. He decided that they must dig a snow cave for the group.

Most of the party huddled under a tarp until the cave was complete. Later the snow shovel blew away in the storm; a vital loss.

An oddity of this climb was that the leaders carried extra equipment belonging to the students. This equipment was left under the quickly buried tarp when they entered the
snow cave.

Brinton Clark, a survivor, said that she had been afraid in the cave. She said there was a lot of crying. People panicked and scrambled for the door several times in the night.

The next morning Ralph Summers emerged from the tiny hole that marked the cave. The blizzard still blew. He walked over to the buried tarp and tugged at it futilely.

There was a pair of skis inside (which could have marked their cave) and other precious things. But the cold wind blew and “I could feel myself losing strength amazingly,” Summers said at the trial. He abandoned the tarp and returned to the cave.

Summers then decided to go for help and asked Giles Thompson to go with him. Giles declined. Molly Schula then volunteered.

As they left she told Father Tom (Gornan) that she was leaving. Listlessly he replied, “Molly goodbye.”

At the trial Brinton Clark said that after Summers and Schula left, the cave entrance got smaller and smaller.

Griswold (attorney at trial): “Wasn’t it about that time that all the people in the cave knew they were all going to die?”

“Yes,” said Clark.

After leaving the cave Summers and Schula fought their way down into the White River canyon through heavy snow. They found the missing shovel just below the cave; but Summers decided that he did not have strength enough to climb back up to return it.

They proceeded into the blizzard. The powerful gusts frequently knocked them down.

With incredible good luck they made their way across White River canyon into the Meadows Ski Area. “Oh, god! We’re saved!” said the girl.

“No, Molly,” said Summers. “We have to wait until everybody is with us to celebrate.”

Summers plunged into the rescue operation with grim determination. He rode the helicopter in the battering storm as it made pass after pass over the suspected cave area. But he could not find it and no one emerged to wave. The cold snow was draining the life from their bodies.

Not until three agonizing days had passed and the storm had abated was the group finally found. Only two students, Brinton Clark and Giles Thompson, survived the snow cave. Seven students, plus Rev. Goman and Marion Horwell, perished.

At the trial Summers stated that he felt responsibility for the deaths, but the court and the survivors completely exonerated him. One of the school officials said that the tragedy was caused by the storm and not by any decisions made by the climb leaders.

But on balance, Goman’s widow said:

“I keep coming back to the fact that Ralph Summers left nine people to die-including my husband -without marking the cave, giving the students instructions for caring for themselves, or providing essential survival items from their packs.”


Doctors Remove Legs Of Mt. Hood Climber
Published: May 19, 1986

Doctors today amputated the lower legs of one of two teen-agers who survived a blizzard on Mount Hood that killed nine other people, hospital officials said.

The youth, Giles Thompson, 16 years old, lost both legs below the knees in a one-hour operation at Providence Medical Center.

''It was a difficult decision to make but it was either amputation or his life,'' said Dr. Leo Marx.

The teen-ager returned after surgery to the coronary care unit and was showing signs of improvement, Barbara Hood, a hospital spokesman, said.

Earlier in the day Dr. Peter Fisher, said that about 30 percent of the muscle tissue in each of the legs below the knees had been surgically removed.

Meanwhile, the condition of Brinton Clark, 16, of Portland, the only other survivor, continued to improve. Lori Callister, a spokesman at Emanuel Hospital, said Miss Clark remained in critical condition but was making steady progress, communicating with her nurses and her parents through a board with the alphabet on it. ''The doctors now say she is alert and oriented and just lightly sedated,'' she said. cs%2fSubjects%2fM%2fMountain%20Climbing

It is hard to believe that the leaders of this climb were prepared for any but the best of weather.

We might note here that both the Mazamas and the Mountaineers still rely upon the “Ten Essentials,” which is presumably emergency equipment.

The Ten Essentials, however, is a hoary list from the dead days of woodcraft: neither ten nor essential. A powerful indictment of the list is that it does not even include water.

Dating from the pre-stove days, it presumes that you can start a bonfire-which is absurd in a snow cave, unless you burned the fire starter, the map, your sunglasses, and your plastic whistle.

Modern “Essentials” should include: extra food and clothing (first and foremost!); a foam pad to keep your warm body off the cold snow; a stove and a container to melt snow; a snow shovel; a tarp; and a bivy bag of some sort.

There are many “ifs” about the OES climb, and one of them is that “if” each climber had carried even a light ensolite pad, the outcome might have been very different.-IM

Many hiking clubs have recognized some gaps in the original Ten Essentials list, and promote their own versions, including such things as whistle, toilet paper, water, and foam pad, among others.

The original Ten Essentials list still has merit. It is appropriate for hikers and provides basic equipment for trail travelers in summer.

Ascending our big volcanic cones falls outside the realm of “hiking,” although in fair weather the popular ascents can be deceptive in their ease, luring those who don’t have even the Ten Essentials, much less climbing gear.

Joe Horiskey, a guide for Rainier Mountaineering Inc, estimates that “probably not much more than 80% of all RMI-guided ascents make the summit of Rainier. “it depends to a large part on the weather,” Joe told me. RMI guides are trained extensively in first aid, avalanche preparedness, and climbing techniques.

An RMI leader is a Senior Guide with years of on-the-job training, as well as wide personal climbing (not hiking) experience. All this is to illustrate that those responsible for leading novices into the climbing environment must follow a different set of rules climbing rules, not hiking rules.

“I don’t even know what the Ten Essentials are,” admitted Joe. But as he rattled off a few of the items in his pack, I could tell that he certainly has the Ten Essentials and much, much more.

In taking a closer look at Freedom of the Hills (fourth edition; The Mountaineers), I note that the chapter on clothing and equipment lists the Ten Essentials and discusses each briefly. A foam pad is listed under 11 extra clothing.” A metal cup for heating water is included under “extra food.” An alternate source of fuel is discussed under “matches and fire starters.” Then five more items are listed and discussed.

The Ten Essentials may not be enough, but they are a start because without ‘em you got nothin’. Leaders -and individual climbers-need to use their good judgment to adjust the basic Ten Essentials to fit whatever is appropriate for their outing, considering weather, time of year, terrain.
Jim Miller, “The Oregon Episcopal School Climb,” Signpost for Northwest Trails. XXV (May, 1990), p. 26-27
Copyright © The Tacoma Public Library -- 1998 -- All Rights Reserved|mountain/hood1986


  What can be learned from this tragic incident?

I have no personal knowledge of this tragic and un-necessary incident other that what is printed above, but experience tells me the following:

These novice climbers and teenagers should have planned a timely return down hill through the groomed Mt. Hood ski area, which lay only a short way below where they dug their fatal snow cave. They were unable to stay warm enough in the inadequate, badly designed cave. Clearly, they did not have enough insulation (inexpensive and simple 6oz ensolite pads) to lie on in the cold snow or enough Essential extra personal inexpensive insulating wool or pile layers and waterproof and wind proof layers to maintain necessary body heat generated from their exhausted calorie depleted resting basal metabolism rate. They did not have the available, inexpensive and simple ability to melt snow in a pot on a stove for hydration, calorie replacement and warmth at the snow cave they chose to dig for two hours in the storm.
In 1986, they did not have cell phones or GPS receivers, I believe these common inexpensive (latitude and longitude) location and (satellite and/or mobile phone) communication devices are the eleventh Essential System.

Following the simple Basic Responsibility of a turn-around time might have saved nine lives.  We believe everyone who ventures into the backcountry should be equipped with the traditional (restated modern) Ten Essential Systems and the knowledge needed to use them. We insist that "digging an emergency snow cave" be considered only as an extreme last resort and not as a safe fall-back adventure. You can not shelter in a snow cave without insulation from the snow for each individual and a shovel for every two, and the knowledge that the sheltering bench of snow and ice must be above the top of the entrance.
--Robert Speik, Webmeister



A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Deschutes County to plan for the unexpected.  Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged cell phone and inexpensive walkie-talkie radios. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essentials" in a day pack sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or move around your marked location to stay warm. Do not try to find your way until you are exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.




"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




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


Read more . . .
  Latest news postings
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Op-Ed: Prepare for the worst before setting out in the winter
Mount Hood - Analysis of the December 2009 deaths by hypothermia, of three climbers on Reid Glacier Headwall
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In Memory of Chris Chan, July 9, 2010
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FREE Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why are "snowcaves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Longacre Expeditions teen group rescued from the snowdrifts above Todd Lake
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

Mount Hood - Analysis of the December 2009 deaths of three climbers on Reid Glacier Headwall
Mount Hood - Fatal ice fall below the Pearly Gates during warming winter weather
Mount Hood - Fatal rock fall below the Eliot Glacier Headwall during summer conditions
Mount Hood - Climber falls 300 feet descending the South Side from the summit
Mount Hood - Climber falls descending Mazama Chute from summit
Mount Hood - Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
Mount Hood - Two climbers become lost descending the South Side
Mount Hood - Final Report to the American Alpine Club on the loss of three climbers in December 2006
Mount Hood - Veteran climber injured during ice axe arrest on Mt Hood
Mount Hood - Climber injured by falling ice, rescued by helicopter
Mount Hood - Three climbers, their MLU and a dog "rescued"
Mount Hood - Three North Face climbers lost
Mount Hood - What happened to the three climbers on the North Face?
Mount Hood - Solo climber falls from Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - Climbing accident claims three lives -Final Report and our Analysis 
Mount Hood - Notable mountain climbing accidents Analyzed 
Mount Hood - Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Mount Hood - Solo climber slides into the Bergschrund and is found the following day
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy 
Mount Hood - Experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
Mount Hood - A personal description of the south side route
Mount Hood - Fatal avalanche described by Climbing Ranger
Mount Hood - Avalanche proves fatal for members of Mazamas climbing group
Mount Hood - Snowboard rider dies on Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - Fatal fall on snow, Cooper Spur Route
Mount Hood - Fatal fall on snow from the summit
Mount Hood - Climb shows the need for knowledge
Mount Hood - Climb ends in tragedy
Mount Hood - Rescue facilitated by use of a VHF radio!

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"