By Fred Delkin
As a retired member of the mountain climbing community, I again shake my head at the latest report of death on Mt. Hood. Jared Townsley of Tigard is our local peak’s latest victim, and the press account this morning referred to the deceased as “a skilled climber who had already scaled the mountain more than a dozen times.” A postscript should read “familiarity breeds contempt.”
Townsley apparently has repeatedly ignored one of the prime tenets of survival on alpine peaks… never climb alone! He slipped to his death at the head of White River Canyon, a route this writer has climbed multiple times (but never solo). Visibility was superb, but the surface was slick with ice. Two other climbers have been injured on Hood in the same week that Townsley succumbed, but both were with climbing parties and survived. First-time visitors to Timberline Lodge are invariably awed by how close Hood’s south side looms behind the resort and how easy the slope to the summit appears. Yet Portland’s backdrop has a fatality rate that belies its somewhat benign appearance.
Permanently snow-capped peaks deserve any climber’s utmost respect, no matter their experience. Going up alone is beyond sanity. Townsley was returning from reaching the summit, and any climber can tell you that this is when accidents are more likely. Summiters are relaxed, even somewhat euphoric and prone to being careless.
So, Royal Navy Admiral Hood’s namesake strikes again and the lesson is never universally learned.