Climber Survives 15-Foot Fall into Volcanic Opening on Mount Hood

A Portland woman suffered only a shoulder injury after falling into a fumarole on Mount Hood Friday, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported.

Caroline Sundbaum, 32, fell an estimated 15 feet into the fumarole — an opening on an active volcano that emits steam and sulfurous gases — in the Devil’s Kitchen area of the mountain around 1:30 p.m.

Mount Hood, in addition to being the tallest peak in Oregon, is an active volcano.

A nearby climber saw Sundbaum sit down on her pack to rest. A few moments later, she disappeared. The climber then realized there was a hole in the snow where Sundbaum had been sitting.

“It’s fortunate another climber witnessed this incident,” county search and rescue crew members said in a release Saturday. “It would have been extremely difficult to locate Sundbaum otherwise, and the air inside fumaroles can be toxic and potentially deadly.”

A photo of the 15-foot fumarole on Mount Hood. Courtesy the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

CCSO said the climber who alerted emergency officials took immediate action after calling 911.

“He was able to make his way to the fumarole and lower rope down to Sundbaum,” the sheriff’s office said. “She was able to secure herself with the rope and was hoisted out to safety around 2:30 p.m.”

The extent of Sundbaum’s shoulder injury was not immediately known.

The area where the fall took place, known as the White River Canyon, has an elevation of about 11,200 feet. Rescue officials said the fumarole Sundbaum fell into was not widely known among climbers.

“After heavy snow, the fumaroles can be hidden by a snow blanket,” resuers said in the release. “Hot gases from the fumaroles melt the deeper snow and create large cavities hidden under the surface snow.”

Officials added that the cavities can range from a few feet to 20 feet high. And, if a climber were to walk on the roof of the cavities, the climber could easily break through the surface snow and fall in.

Rescuers walk down Mount Hood Saturday. Courtesy the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

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