Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
After a complicated 17-hour mission, recovery teams from the Hood River Crag Rats and Portland Mountain Rescue have managed to find and retrieve the body of Robert Cormier, the Catholic priest from New Jersey who fell 1,000 feet to his death on May 13.
The PMR team retraced Cormier's route from Timberline to the summit and then managed to drop safely into the area where Cormier fell after breaking through a cornice. They reached his body at about 6:45 am Wednesday, May 21, down in a crevasse in the upper headwall of Eliot Glacier.
"It took crews several hours to pull him from the crevasse, which was complicated by near vertical terrain, warming conditions and rock falling nearby," the Hood River County Sheriffs Department explained in a May 21 news release. "Once out of the crevasse there was a dangerous traverse to safe ground, which again took several hours and was further complicated by wind."
Cormier's body was transported to Cloud Cap in a private helicopter owned and operated by Hood River County Sheriff Reserve Grant Porter. From there the body was moved to Anderson's Tribute Center in Hood River.
It took 18 climbers about 17 hours to complete the recovery mission.
Conditions were tricky for the dual recovery mission between the steepness of the terrain and the falling rocks, but at least crews had cooler temperatures bringing more stability to Mount Hood's ice and snow. On the day Cormier broke through a cornice near the summit, temperatures were well above freezing even on the summit and conditions were unstable, with lots of new snow melting, shifting and moving around.
The 57-year-old Cormier climbed up with two companions from Timberline Lodge on the south side of Mount Hood, leaving the lodge at around 1:45 am May 13. The other members of his party turned back prior to making the summit when one of them got a leg cramp. Cormier reached the summit solo and was taking in the view to the north when he fell through a cornice and plunged more than 1,000 feet to the rocks below.
Here is the full text of the news release about the recovery mission from the Hood River County Sheriff's Office, which went public at 9:13 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2014:
HOOD RIVER, ORE - The recovery mission for Robert Cormier today was successful. His body has been transported to Anderson's Tribute Center in Hood River. It took the recovery team of 18 climbers about 17 hours to complete the mission. Cormier's body had slipped into a crevasse in the ice of the upper headwall of Elliot Glacier. It took crews several hours to pull him from the crevasse, which was complicated by near vertical terrain, warming conditions and rock falling nearby. Once out of the crevasse there was a dangerous traverse to safe ground, which again took several hours and was further complicated by wind. A private helicopter owned and operat ed by Sheriff Reserve Grant Porter, then was able to lift Mr. Cormier to the Cloud Cap base operations point.
We are happy to help bring closure to the family and friends of Robert Cormier. The Sheriff's Office would like to thank all who participated in the search and recovery operations, including members of the Crag Rats and Portland Mountain Rescue.