The School Led the Students Up Mount Hood, to Their Deaths

Inside the 1986 tragedy on the mountain
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2018 11:04 AM CST
Updated Nov 11, 2018 8:21 AM CST
The School Led the Students Up Mount Hood, to Their Deaths
A stock photo of Mount Hood.   (Getty Images)

The second-deadliest alpine accident in North American history claimed nine lives. Of those who died on Mount Hood in May 1986, seven were students, all of whom attended Portland's Oregon Episcopal School. At the time, the school ran a program called Basecamp that was Outward Bound-like and required all sophomores to learn how to snow-climb and ultimately summit the 11,249-foot peak. And so just before midnight on May 11, 1986, a group set off, with the expectation that 12 hours later they'd be atop Hood. They consisted of "fifteen boys and girls, one mother, one priest, one administrator, two guides," writes Pauls Toutonghi for Outside Online. "Twenty people in all, nine of whom would die over the next four days" in a storm that hit the mountain with 100-plus-mph winds.

Though the tragedy garnered international headlines, Toutonghi writes that it's only now, 32 years later, that a fuller picture of what went wrong has emerged, through a limited number of interviews he had with rescuers and survivors and based on the findings of two investigations, one ordered by the school and another by the American Alpine Club. His own children now attend the school, which has long since ended the Basecamp program. "I've long been haunted by the story of the climb's lost students, kids so much like my own, so fragile and young," he writes. He digs deep into their story: of those who mercifully turned around; of Thomas Goman, the 42-year-old chaplain blamed for pushing the group too hard; and of the too-small snow cave the group tried to use to survive, but in which four students and two adults died. Read the full story here. (A couple survived 48 hours in a mountain blizzard.)

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