February 28, 2020 / Comments (0)

3 Deaths on Mt. Hood in 3 Weeks, 2 of them in Heather Canyon

view from heather

Two snowboarders and a backcountry skier died on Mount Hood in February, including two deaths in Heather Canyon following a wild stretch of weather that created particularly hazardous off-trail conditions.

All three of the men who died were remembered as enthusiastic and experienced outdoor adventurers.

47-year-old Snowboarder Tim Bauters was reported missing at Mt. Hood Meadows on February 14. His body was found in a gully in Heather Canyon three days later. As Mount Hood regulars know, the steep gullies of Heather Canyon can be extremely dangerous when the snow is deep. Bauters, a Bay Area engineer, left behind a wife and two young children.

45-year-old snowboarder Ryan Zeitner died not far from where the body of Tim Bauters was found on February 16. Zeitner slipped on a patch of bulletproof ice on Moon Bowl in Heather Canyon and crashed fatally into a tree. That same patch of ice also caused numerous other crashes on that day, including several injuries. A front-page February 23 report by Kale Williams of The Oregonian/OregonLive raised sharp questions about the decision to open Moon Bowl and other gated terrain in Heather Canyon given the solid ice sheet that had formed on steep terrain upslope from a grove of large trees. Zeitner is survived by his wife and a young son.

Then on February 26, Cory Johnston was found in critical  condition near Illumination Saddle after a solo ski day for his 47th birthday went horribly wrong. Johnston was a surgeon and a father of two. By the time rescue volunteers from Portland Mountain Rescue made it to the scene, Johnston had died.

Be Careful Out There!

The three deaths serve as a tragic reminder of the inherent risks associated with Mount Hood. It has been a particularly brutal weather year on the mountain, with driving rain storms, huge snow dumps, and temperature extremes alternating heavy slush, glorious powder, frozen crud with solid ice, and tricky combinations of all of the above.  As a 53-year-old skier who admittedly does enjoy exploring the deep woods and high ridges solo from time to time, I feel absolutely terrible for all three of these fallen explorers – and for the people who will miss them.

Heavy condolences to the families and friends of those who died. And be careful out there!

Last modified: February 28, 2020