Christopher Van Tilburg is a mountain rescue doctor who heads out with other volunteers when climbers, skiers, and snowboarders get into trouble on Oregon's Mount Hood. In an essay for Outside, Van Tilburg sounds a little exhausted. The crews typically handle a "few" cases per year, but they've already logged eight this season. It's "been one of the busiest and earliest alpine rescue seasons ever—and I've been involved in search and rescue on the mountain since 1998," he writes. So what's going on? In his essay, Van Tilburg ticks off the various factors, including more people than ever on the mountain, including way too many who are woefully unprepared and perhaps swayed by misleading social media posts along the lines of "fun menageries of ice" and "did my first climb in running shoes and microspikes" (these are actual examples).
What Van Tilburg wants mountaingoers to know—especially as the main volcano-climbing season kicks into gear through July—is that "rescue is neither automatic nor instant" and that "even rescues that seem straightforward involve planning, effort, and risk." He runs through some of the attributes of Mount Hood, including how the most popular route "passes by two giant cavities that exhaust lethal sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide." He notes that "big holes—crevasses, bergschrunds, glide cracks, and fumaroles—present more risks," but he makes a point not to explain the distinctions. Instead, he adds: "Please understand the difference if you plan to climb." Read the full essay, in which Van Tilburg notes that Mount Hood likely will have to soon institute a permit system for climbers that will limit numbers. (Read more Mount Hood stories.)