Climbers faced poor terrain conditions during deadly Mount Hood - KPTV - FOX 12

Climbers faced poor terrain conditions during deadly Mount Hood adventure

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MOUNT HOOD, OR (KPTV) -

It was a beautiful bluebird day when seven climbers started their trek up Mount Hood Tuesday morning, but by the time six were rescued and one had died, a big snowstorm was just hours away.

The blizzard-like conditions dumped several inches of snow at Timberline Lodge, offering a stark contrast between the bare pavement survivors had walked in the final leg of their rescue Tuesday night.

Had the two separate groups of climbers been stuck on the mountain overnight, it could have been even more tragic.

“Prediction of a storm coming in on Mount Hood is something that we take very seriously because it will move in often much faster than predicted,” Portland Mountain Rescue spokesman Mark Morford said Wednesday.

MORE: Deputies ID climber who died following fall from Mt. Hood Tuesday

Still, rescuers said it wasn’t the impending weather, but rather terrain conditions that gave them greatest concern.

“The surface conditions were not conducive for climbing -- not favorable at all,” Morford explained, adding that a mix of cold-weather conditions, followed by a couple days of sunshine, had left the ice brittle and reduced the effectiveness of climbing gear.

“You have to move slowly, and it’s unpleasant,” he said. “It’s just difficult walking on that kind of surface.”

Morford noted that the climbers who got stuck Tuesday are experienced, but he thinks they may have been surprised by the conditions.

Rescuers also had a difficult time making their way up and down the mountain, he said.

MORE: Mom of rescued Mt. Hood climber says she's 'happy and relieved'

As far as questions of whether it’s common to see climbers on Mount Hood in February, Morford said winter climbing has become much more popular in the last decade – perhaps a combination of more people being interested in the sport and those hoping for a mountain experiences while avoiding summer crowds.

One thing is for certain, though. More winter climbing has resulted in more rescues.

Those interested in climbing Mount Hood can check out current conditions and tips at PMRU.org.

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