Potential mountain tragedy is limited to a broken leg
Terry Allen Cone is feeling quite lucky for a man with a broken leg.
The 69-year-old Lake Oswego resident had previously climbed Mount Hood 83 times without a mishap, but an icy slope Saturday sent him on a long slide down the mountain on which he suffered a broken right leg.
However, thanks to his own safety practices and some good luck, Allen was discovered, rescued and taken to a hospital in a relatively brief span of time. By Monday afternoon he was back home with a large cast on his leg.
'From start to finish it took about six hours,' Cone said. 'So many phenomenal things happened. I was incredibly impressed with the Portland Mountain Rescue team. They worked with the precision of a surgical team.'
Cone had just climbed Mount Hood for the 84th time Saturday afternoon and was descending down the mountain when he encountered icy conditions around the 9,000-foot level.
He had reached a section just below Crater Rock, which was steep and particularly rough and uneven.
Making the footing even worse were ice moguls.
'Because of the poor footing and steepness I switched back and forth,' Cone said. 'At the turnaround point on the switchback I lost my footing.'
Cone proceeded to slide an estimated 200 feet over rough terrain. He was on his back, but his head was down, so he tried to spin around so his feet would be down instead. Unfortunately, his right heel caught on an ice mogul.
'Apparently, that impact broke my leg,' Cone said. 'I slid for another 20 or 30 feet. I never lost consciousness.'
Cone was lying on a cake of ice while a 30-knot wind howled, and there were only two-and-a-half hours left of daylight.
However, as an experienced climber, Cone was confident there were other climbers still on the mountain, especially on the conventional south side route. He maneuvered himself toward a place where he could more easily be seen.
'When I saw somebody come over the horizon, I waved,' Cone said. 'He waved back. It was very comforting.'
Cone was even luckier than he thought. His rescuer was Dr. David Lippert of Portland, and he immediately set about making Cone as comfortable and safe as possible.
'He slid clothing under me to protect me from the ice,' Cone said, 'and he made a 911 call.'
Cone helped himself, too. He always carries a mountain locator unit and had never needed to use it for the past 20 years. But this time Cone used the unit to emit a radio signal that was picked up by rescuers, helping them to discover his location much more quickly.
In less than two hours, Portland Mountain Rescue was on hand. The most welcome thing they did was slip a chemically activated heated blanket around him.
'When they did that, I was comfortable,' Cone said.
The rescue process clipped right along. Cone was put on a sled and taken to the top of the ski lift, where a Snowcat was waiting to take him to Timberline Lodge. From there an ambulance took him to Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham.
Cone's situation differs dramatically from the tragedy in December on Mount Hood when Kelly James, Brian Hall and Jerry 'Nikko' Cooke became lost Dec. 10. Searchers combed the mountain until Dec. 20, but only the body of James, found in a snow cave, was recovered.
It was just the second accident Cone has suffered in 41 years as an avid mountain climber. He previously broke a shoulder while climbing Mount Olympus.
'When I first climbed Mount Hood I had no idea I would make it a lifelong passion,' Cone said. 'I thought it would be a one-time thing. Then I climbed Mount St. Helens and a few others.
'The experiences you have as a mountain climber are simply without parallel. You see gorgeous sunrises. You see the shadow of the mountain before you in the forest. You see almost indescribable ice formations.
'For physical activity, there's nothing else that can give you that kind of exercise - the cardiovascular, the lungs.'
Cone's one-time thing turned into a 250-time thing. However, for the next two-and-a-half months this very active man won't be climbing any mountains. The nearest he can come to that activity is reading his National Geographic magazines.
But when his leg is healed, Cone expects to climb again.
'Mount Hood is a state shrine,' he said. 'Everyone in Oregon should climb it once. I try to make up for the ones that don't.'