Oregon climbing guide dies, 4 climbers injured after falls on Mt. Shasta due to unstable ice

Jessica Skropanic
Redding Record Searchlight

Four climbers were injured and a climbing guide was killed Monday in three separate accidents on Mt. Shasta due to unstable ice.

The falls were reported at 8:35 a.m., 12:31 p.m. and 4 p.m. The sheriff's office released the name of the person killed and withheld releasing the identities and ages of the four who were injured.

"We're advising that climbers don't summit for the next couple of days until that ice softens," said Courtney Kreider, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office public information officer.

In the first incident, the sheriff's office climbing guide Jillian Elizabeth Webster, 32, of Redmond, Oregon and two climbers were tethered together and ascending the mountain above Lake Helen when one of them lost their footing, causing all three to fall. All three climbers slid on snow and ice 1,500 to 2,500 vertical feet down the mountain, according to the sheriff's office.

Webster was unresponsive after the fall. A nurse, who was climbing nearby, administered CPR to Webster. A California Highway Patrol helicopter airlifted Webster  to Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta where she died.

The helicopter also airlifted a male climber to the Ski Bowl parking area, where medical personnel transferred him to an air ambulance that flew him to Mercy Medical Center in Redding. He was under observation and recovering as of Monday evening, the sheriff's office said.

A female climber also was taken in the CHP helicopter to the Ski Bowl parking area. She was transferred to a ground ambulance that took her to Mercy Mount Shasta. She, too, was under observation and recovering.

The second fall left another climber in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said.

What looked like a solid freeze on Mt. Shasta turned out to be very unstable, said people recreating on Monday.

"There was a lot of water ice on top of the snowpack," said Wallace Casper of Bozeman, Montana in a police video. Those conditions made it slippery to the point it was difficult to impossible to stop once you started sliding.

The climber in that second incident fell about 1,000 feet above Helen Lake.

U.S. Forest Service rangers said his injuries were not critical. They assisted him in getting down the mountain for part of the way. When he no longer could descend, the CHP helicopter picked him and flew him to Mercy Mount Shasta.

About three and a half hours later, at 4 p.m., a female climber, who originally had been climbing with the male climber in the second reported incident, fell about 1,000 feet. The sheriff's office reported she lost traction and slid down the mountain. Once again, the CHP helicopter was summoned and dropped off a climbing ranger near the injured climber. She, too, was airlifted to Mercy Mount Shasta.

The sheriff's did not know the condition of either of the climbers in those two incidents.

The sheriff's office is directing climbers to consult with U.S. Forest Service staff before making plans to climb the mountain.

Climbers returning from the route are reporting poor conditions after fresh snow that fell Sunday turned to ice over night, she said.

The Avalanche Gulch trail is considered a difficult one to climb, according to the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center. It's a "7,000 vertical foot ascent that exposes the climber to steep snow and ice, rock fall, and weather extremes."

The 10-mile out-and-back trail begins and ends at the Bunny Flat trailhead.

It takes about 10.5 hours to navigate it, according to recreation website AllTrails.com.

"It's a mountain area route," Kreider said. "There's no carved trail."

The Siskiyou County Search and Rescue, forest service climbing rangers, CHP helicopter crew and Mount Shasta Fire Department assisted in the rescues, the sheriff's office said.

One dead, 4 airlifted to hospital after 3 climbing accidents on Siskiyou County's Mt. Shasta

9 a.m. Tuesday June 7, 2022

A woman airlifted to a hospital on Monday was the fifth person to fall within a five-hour period while climbing Mt. Shasta that day.

A helicopter crew found the woman shortly after she called for help at 4 p.m., the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said. She reported she "suffered injuries on the mountain."

Hers was the latest of five falls during three climbing incidents — reported between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. — that left one person dead and four others injured, the sheriff’s office said. 

The first climbing party called for help at 8:39 a.m. after three people fell, the sheriff’s office said. One climber was confirmed dead before rescuers could get to them. A second suffered severe injuries and is in critical condition. Another has multiple injuries including a broken ankle.

Five people were injured and one killed after four climbing accidents on Mt. Shasta on the week of June 6.

The second fall — reported at 12:31 p.m. — left another climber in critical condition, the sheriff’s office said.

What looked like a solid freeze on Mt. Shasta turned out to be very unstable, said people recreating on Monday.

"There was a lot of water ice on top of the snowpack," said Wallace Casper of Bozeman, Montana in a police video. Those conditions made it slippery to the point it was difficult to impossible to stop once you started sliding.

"We're advising that climbers don't summit for the next couple of days until that ice softens," said Courtney Kreider, public information officer at the sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office said it plans to release more information after the climbers' families are notified.

Four climbers airlifted to hospitals after 2 accidents on Siskiyou County's Mt. Shasta

4 p.m. Monday June 6, 2022

Siskiyou County first responders worked Monday afternoon to rescue people involved in two separate climbing incidents near Avalanche Gulch on Mt. Shasta.

Four climbers from two climbing parties were airlifted to nearby hospitals, said Courtney Kreider, sheriff's office public information officer.

First responders don't have an update on what are "obvious severe injuries" at this time, but an eyewitness told rescuers one climber fell about 1,000 feet, Kreider said.

No one from either party is missing.

"We're still notifying families" so no names are available at this time, she said.

Clouds roll over Mt. Shasta in this photo looking toward Avalanche Gulch in this 2019 photo.

The first incident happened at 8:39 a.m., Kreider said. The second followed shortly after at 12:30 p.m. Emergency vehicles left the area by 3:40 p.m.

Climbers returning from the route are reporting poor conditions after fresh snow that fell Sunday turned to ice over night, she said.

The Avalanche Gulch trail is considered a difficult one to climb, according to the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center. It's a "7,000 vertical foot ascent that exposes the climber to steep snow and ice, rock fall, and weather extremes."

The 10-mile out-and-back trail begins and ends at the Bunny Flat trailhead.

It takes about 10.5 hours to navigate it, according to recreation website AllTrails.com.

"It's a mountain area route," Kreider said. "There's no carved trail."

The sheriff’s office posted on Facebook around 2:45 p.m. Monday it was coordinating rescue operations with other agencies including Siskiyou County Search and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service Climbing Rangers, the California Highway Patrol's Air Operations H-14 Crew and the Mount Shasta Fire Department.

More information is pending, the sheriff's office said.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.