Story contributions from our news partner KGW
Hood River, Ore, — A sad end to a search for a fallen climber on Mount Hood.
“He fell 1000 feet down. I can not see him. He’s gone.”
That’s part of the 911 call made from the summit of the mountain just after 8 this morning. The man who fell has been identified as 57-year-old Robert Cormier, a Catholic priest from New Jersey.
The man’s body was found by searchers in the air near Eilot Glacier on the Northeast side of the mountain. Conditions were too dangerous for his body to be lifted out today by a National Guard Helicopter team. The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office says rescuers will wait until tomorrow morning to recover the climber, when temperatures are cooler and provide more stability for rescuers.
Cormier was climbing in a party of three people, according to Hood River Sheriff’s Sgt. Pete Hughes. “We’ve had this happen a few times where people have gone to take a look over to the north side of the mountain and actually fallen off the north side, which is a sheer face,” said Sgt. Hughes.
Cormier was active for 31 years in the Newark Archdiocese. He was also an author and pilot.
On May 10, Cormier posted this message on his Facebook page:
“With today’s message I am pleased to announce to you that on Monday I am leaving on what will likely be my last attempt to climb a big mountain. In this case it is Mount Hood in Oregon. We have been at this kind of thing for 40 years and are very much hoping to finish with a victory. I will report to you next Saturday.”
Investigators said the group ascended from Timberline Lodge, the traditional south side approach to the summit, and left at about 1:45 a.m.. Hughes said Cormier was climbing ahead of his party because another climber in the group had a leg cramp.
Conditions on the mountain were clear Tuesday, with temperatures ranging from the 50s at Timberline Lodge to the 30s near the summit. Avalanche danger has been high, due to the warm conditions and recent heavy snowfall. “The summit of Mt. Hood can get cornices on it,” explained Steve Rollins with Portland Mountain Rescue.
“Cornices form when the wind blows snow and deposits snow and creates a lip over the edge of a cliff. And that can be deceiving when you walk up to it – you may not realize you are standing on a lip of snow with nothing underneath it.” Searchers located Cormier’s body on the Eliot Glacier headwall, in a crevasse, at about 10,500 feet above sea level, according to the sheriff’s office. “He was very unique,” said friend Carl Duman.
“He was passionate about what he wanted to do.” Conditions were unsafe for rescuers and crews will not attempt to recover the body this week due to avalanche dangers, deputies said. Mount Hood is one of the nation’s most popular mountains to climb, but it also has a deadly history.