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Four climbing accidents reported on Mt. Shasta in just over 24 hours

Four climbing accidents were reported within approximately 24 hours Monday and Tuesday on the Avalanche Gulch route up Mount Shasta. [123rf.com]

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office again coordinated rescue efforts for an injured climber Tuesday afternoon in the area of Avalanche Gulch on Mount Shasta. The latest accident, reported at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, came on top of three climbing accidents reported Monday that included one death and four injuries.

The climber reported injured Tuesday morning near Avalanche Gulch was found to have non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital by the California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s office reported mid-afternoon.

The first incident, reported Monday at 8:35 a.m., involved two climbers and a guide who were tethered together as they ascended Mount Shasta above Lake Helen. One of the climbers reportedly lost their footing, causing all three to slide about 1,500 to 2,500 feet down the mountain, the sheriff’s office said.

One man was in critical condition with an open fracture on his lower leg as well as head trauma. A woman was alert and oriented but had a lower leg fracture.

The climbing guide, Jillian Elizabeth Webster, 32, of Redmond, was unresponsive after the fall. A nurse who was climbing nearby administered CPR, and Webster was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta, where she was later pronounced dead.

The male climber was airlifted by a California Highway Patrol helicopter to the old Ski Bowl parking area lower on the mountain and transferred to an air ambulance and flown to Mercy Medical Center Redding. He was reported Monday evening to be recovering.

The female climber was also airlifted to the Ski Bowl parking area. She was transferred to a ground ambulance and transported to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta, where she was reported to be recovering.

In the second incident, reported Monday at 12:30 p.m., a male climber slid about 1,000 vertical feet above Lake Helen. U.S. Forest Service climbing rangers reached the man and reported that he was injured, but not critically. Rangers assisted the man partially down the mountain, but he was unable to continue, so he was was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta. His condition was not immediately known Tuesday.

A third accident was reported Monday at 4 p.m. A woman who had been climbing with the male climber injured in the second accident lost traction and slid about 1,000 feet down the mountain. A CHP helicopter dropped a climbing ranger near the injured woman, and she was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center Mount Shasta. Her condition was not immediately known.

Conditions on the mountain likely were “icier than people probably expected,” said Charles Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. However, it’s not unusual for it to be icy at this time of year, he added.

A warming trend is predicted on the mountain this week, then temperatures are expected to begin decreasing again Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

“Avalanche Gulch is considered Mount Shasta’s most popular non-technical route,” said Don Lee, of the visitor information services department in the Shasta-McCloud Management unit of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Lee said the Avalanche Gulch route to the summit climbs more than 7,000 feet and includes weather extremes, falling rocks, steep inclines, snow and ice.

People considering a climb are advised to check weather conditions. See shastaavalanche.org or call the Mount Shasta Transfer Station at 530-926-4511. The National Weather Service recreation report for the area is updated daily.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at tharber@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.