May 13, 2014 / Comments (1)

Fallen Mount Hood climber located, identified as a Catholic Priest from New Jersey

Hood River County search crews have found and identified the missing climber who was seen falling an estimated 1,000 feet in the area of Eliot Glacier Tuesday morning, and he is believed to be dead.

A search and rescue team using a county fixed wing search plane and a Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard spotted the fallen climber Tuesday morning at about 10,500 feet on the north side of Mount Hood.

According to a news release from Hood River County Sheriffs, “There were no signs of life from the climber and his injuries appeared to be too severe to survive.”

The climber has been identified as 57-year-old Robert J. Cormier, a Catholic Priest from Jersey City, New Jersey.

Cormier was first reported as climbing solo in the area of Eliot Glacier at around 8 am Tuesday, May 13, when he fell an estimated 1,000 feet before witnesses lost sight of him. But the most recent story from investigators is that Cormier climbed up with two companions from Timberline Lodge on the South Side of Mount Hood, leaving the lodge at around 1:45 am. 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 an ice cornice and plunged more than 1,000 feet.

The temperature was quite warm on the mountain today, making for a powerful meltdown of snow and ice after a wintry storm dropped fresh snow from 5,000 feet on up on Friday and Saturday. The freezing level on Mount Hood Tuesday was about 12,000-13,000 feet, higher than the mountain’s summit of 11,249 feet.

Volunteer rescue experts from the Crag Rats out of Hood River decided to postpone the body recovery effort due to warming temperatures and unsafe conditions in the area.

Cormier’s death marks the fifth serious climbing accident on Mount Hood over the past year, including four fatalities.

In November 2013 search-and-rescue teams rescued a 62-year-old climber named John Richard Andrews who fell 800 feet into a crater near the Hogsback on the south side of Mount Hood.

The most recent Mount Hood fatality was a 32-year-old Polish military officer and combat photographer named Sebastian Kinsiewicz, who attempted to summit the North side solo and fell 1,000 feet to his death on August 11, 2013.

Kinsiewicz’s death was one of three Mount Hood fatalities in the summer of 2013.

Cormier is the first Mount Hood death of 2014.

Here is the full news release sent out by Hood River County Sheriff’s Office at 5:15 pm, Tuesday, May 13, 2014:

“HOOD RIVER, ORE – The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office has identified the fallen climber on MT Hood as 57 year old Robert J Cormier of Jersey City, New Jersey. Mr. Cormier was a Catholic Priest in Jersey City.

On Tuesday, May 13th at about 1:45am Cormier left the Timberline Lodge with two other men to summit MT Hood. Near the summit one of the men had to turn back due to a leg cramp. Cormier continued up the mountain. Upon reaching the summit of the mountain Cormier looked north and was seen falling through an ice cornice to the north side of the mountain. Just after 8:00am the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office received the report of the fallen climber.

A Sheriff’s Office search plane located Cormier, but was not able to assess his wellness. The Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of the Oregon Army National Guard Charlie Company, 7-158 Aviation from Salem Oregon. They sent a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and crew to assist. The crew located Cormier at about the 10,500 foot level on the mountain. There was no sign of life and the crew believed he could not have survived the severe injuries they witnessed.

Search crews will not attempt a recovery of Cormier this week due to high temperatures and extreme avalanche danger in the area where Cormier’s body is. They will have to wait until the weather gives them an opportunity to recover his body.”

Last modified: May 13, 2014

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