Oregon climber survives fall into Mt. Hood fumarole

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland woman suffered only a shoulder injury after falling into a 15-foot fumarole on Mount Hood Friday.

Caroline Sundbaum, 32, fell into the opening — which emits steam and volcanic gases — in the Devil’s Kitchen area of the mountain around 1:30 p.m., according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

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,” 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.”

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,” CCSO 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 of Devil’s Kitchen where the fall took place, 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,” CCSO said. “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.

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