PORTLAND, Ore. — A snowboarder traveling through an ice tunnel on Oregon’s Mount Hood with five companions was buried when the tunnel collapsed Saturday, officials said.
Rescue crews were debating after nightfall whether to begin digging for the snowboarder or wait until daylight when conditions were expected to be safer.
The five traveling with the snowboarder were uninjured and called police. They also attempted to dig the man out, but were unable to break through thick snow and ice.
“They tried digging for an hour, but the problem is the stuff is so thick that they couldn’t get through it,” said Hood River Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Pete Hughes. “We’re getting chainsaws, if that’s any indication.”
Earlier reports from police incorrectly stated there were seven people in the group. The initial reports also referred to an avalanche, but it was not immediately clear if one had occurred.
The climber was trapped by a collapsed tunnel on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain.
“It trapped one person in the tunnel, (but) we’re not sure if he was the last one out or it just caught him,” Hughes said. “It sounds like there’s a significant amount of ice and snow that fell.”
An airplane was dispatched to survey the area, along with crews from local sheriff’s offices.
Hughes said it will “take some doing” to reach the area where the climber was buried on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain.
Hughes says it’s unclear at what elevation the avalanche buried the climber.
Warm temperatures made snow on the mountain slushier and more easily sloughed off the surface, adding to the challenge of attempting to reach the snowboarder.