Two in Fair Condition After Oregon Climbing Accident

Two climbers were rescued Saturday by a National Guard helicopter crew after they were injured in a 500-foot fall near the top of Mount Hood.

Aaron Dunlop, 31, of Newberg, and Jeremy Hawkins, 32, of Tigard, were in fair condition at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, officials said.

A third climber in the party, Brad Wood, about 30, of Tigard, walked off the 11,240-foot mountain, the highest peak in Oregon and a popular destination for Pacific Northwest climbers.

Dunlop and Hawkins had head and back injuries, and had been slipping in and out of consciousness as rescuers tended to them while waiting for the arrival of the helicopter, said Detective Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County sheriff's office.

Kathy Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Mount Hood National Forest, said a U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger and members of the Portland Mountain Rescue organization were on the mountain at the same time and were quickly able to reach the pair above the 10,000-foot level.

She said the rescuers reported at mid-afternoon that the two climbers were judged in good enough condition for a helicopter to bring them down.

"They just had to be stabilized before they could go anywhere," she said.

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Oregon Army National Guard's 1042nd Medical Company with a crew of five, including a medic, handled the rescue, said Kay Fristad, National Guard spokeswoman.

She said the Guard rescue team has been busy as the summer climbing season arrives.

"We're on the mountain more than off," Fristad said. "This is the time when the mountain is changing. The snow is softening, and crevasses are forming. It's not a good time for climbers."

Northwest Cable News reported there were at least a couple of dozen climbers on the mountain at the time of the accident, most of them highly experienced, including the Portland Mountain Rescue members.

Witnesses told KGW-TV, the network's Portland affiliate, that one climber fell so hard his helmet shattered.

They also said there was rain on the mountain overnight, creating especially slippery and treacherous conditions.

Strovink said the climbers were among three parties going for the top of the mountain Saturday morning.

The lead party fell backward, hitting a second party, and the mass of climbers then fell into a third party, he said.