- Written by Ben Jacklet
- Category: Accidents and Rescues
- Published: February 02, 2016
UPDATE: Rescue teams have found and saved 51-year-old Christian Houck of Seattle, who got disoriented while dropping down from above Palmer on the south side of Mount Hood and failed to return as expected to Timberline Lodge Monday evening. After a cold night on the mountain Houck made it back to Timberline without injury.
Houck had told dispatchers he had hiked above the Palmer Snowfield on Mt. Hood and got off-course while attempting to return to Timberline Lodge. He gave dispatchers his approximate location, but did not have navigation equipment with him to give an exact location.
Search and rescue personnel from Mountain Wave Emergency Communications, Portland Mountain Rescue, Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue and the U.S. Air Force 304th Rescue Squadron found his vehicle in the parking lot of Timberline lodge Monday, but they were unable to locate Houck on the mountain after searching late into the evening. According to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, avalanche danger and stream-crossings hindered search efforts. Mount Hood picked up another two feet of snow over the weekend, and avy danger has been high.
Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue Coordinators were able to contact Houck by cell phone and tell him to shelter in place for the evening. Houck reported that he had made a snow cave to sleep in and marked the cave so it could be located by searchers.
The search resumed at first light Tuesday morning. Searchers estimated it would take two hours to get to the area where Houck was believed to be located, but they did not find him there.
Search and rescue coordinators made contact with Mr. Houck by cell phone again just after 8 am today (Tuesday, Feb. 2). He reportedly told the SAR Coordinators he might know his location and was attempting to self-rescue. Coordinators advised Houck to stay in place and they would come to him.
Around 10 am searchers located an empty snow cave they believe belonged to the missing subject. About an hour later a search plane from the Hood River County Sheriff's Office spotted someone in Zigzag Canyon. The plane guided the searchers to the subject, who turned out to be Houck, stuck in the canyon.
The south side of Mount Hood can be deceptive, especially when visibility becomes challenging on the descent. The most common error happens when climbers and skiers underestimate just how far left they need to go to return to Timberline Lodge. All too often they simply follow the fall line down and unwittingly end up in one of the canyons near the headwaters of the Sandy and Zigzag Rivers. The farther you drop down into those canyons, the more hazardous they can become, with steep. loose climbs on both sides and very cold, fast-moving water down below the snow.
A rule of thumb for your return down from Palmer: When in doubt, go left.