September 22, 2013 / Comments (0)

Shred in Peace: 3 fatalities in the summer of 2013 show Mount Hood’s inherent danger

A veteran climber training for a 22,000-foot summit, a well-conditioned military officer and a radical snowboarder with a zest for life: these were the three most recent victims of fatal accidents on Mount Hood.

Mount Hood is the second most frequently climbed glacial peak in the world behind Mount Fuji. Hundreds of thousands of people ski, snowboard, climb and bike here every year without being harmed. But the weather can turn in a matter of minutes, and some of the mountain’s coolest features also are its most hazardous. More than 150 people have died in climbing, skiing and snowboarding accidents on Mount Hood in the past 150 years.

The three most recent victims:

  • Kinley Adams, a 59-year-old dentist and experienced climber;
  • Sebastian Kinasiewicz, a 32-year-old Polish military officer and combat photographer;
  • Collin Backowski, a 25-year-old snowboarding coach with High Cascade Snowboarding Camp.

Kinley Adams had summited Denali, Mt. Rainier and El Capitan. He was climbing Hood solo June 29 to prepare for an expedition to 22,349-foot Ama Dablam when visibility vanished. The weather was so poor that rescue helicopters were unable to fly. His body was found June 30 at 8,400 feet on the Sandy Glacier.

Sebastian Kinsiewicz was training with the drone manufacturer Insitu in the Gorge and he decided to summit Mount Hood on his day off on August 11. He parked at the Tilly Jane trailhead and attempted to summit Mount Hood’s craggy north face solo. He fell 1,000 feet to his death. A rescue team spotted his body from a helicopter, but it was in too precarious of a spot to recover.

Collin Backowski was snowboarding White River Glacier with his camera and five friends on his day off from coaching young boarders for High Cascade when he came upon an ice tunnel. He ventured in to scout it out and a chunk of ice the size of a school bus broke loose and fell on him, burying him completely. It took a team of rescuers with power tools to dig his body out of the ice August 4.

Backowski’s @collagram Instagram photos show him shredding pow, goofing around with his many friends and spotting jumps from a tree platform in happier times. They serve as a bittersweet reminder that the mountain can be just as dangerous as it is beautiful.

Here are a few safety tips to remember:

Going out of bounds? Don’t go alone. Bring a buddy.

Bring layers of clothing, food and water.

If you’re heading into avalanche terrain, carry a beacon, a metal shovel (not plastic) and a probe.

Learn about the backcountry before heading into the backcountry. Mazamas Ski Mountaineering Courses come highly recommended.

Study your map before you go and bring it with you.

If you are planning to summit, read the Mountain Shop’s Climbing Mount Hood page.

Check out Portland Mountain Rescue’s Four Elements of Safety:

Know the Conditions.

Know Your Route.

Be Prepared.

Have a Back-up Plan.

One last thing: Just because you used a chairlift to get there doesn’t mean it isn’t backcountry. As John Clary Davies explains in this persuasive article in Powder Magazine, having lifts and ski areas nearby can give riders a dangerously false sense of security. Don’t think of lift-accessed backcountry as sidecountry. Think of it as backcountry.

Last modified: September 22, 2013

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