Man Falls Into Mount St. Helens Crater

A climber on Mount St. Helens fell into the volcano’s crater Monday afternoon, leading deputies to launch a rescue operation.

The 50-year-old man was about five feet away from the edge on a cornice when it gave way, sheriff’s deputies said. His condition isn’t known but he is blowing an emergency whistle, according to Skamania County undersheriff Dave Cox.

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A rescue operation is under way and the North Country EMS Volcano Rescue Team, which specializes in high-angle rescues, has been called in.”We’re watching the weather that’s moving in and the darkness,” Cox said. “We’re going to have our hands full this evening.”A helicopter crew was able to locate the man on a 45-degree snow slope near the bottom of the crater, but they were not able to hoist the man to safety.”One of the pilots thought he saw him moving his head around a bit,” Cox said.Cox said winds were turbulent within the crater Monday afternoon. A Coast Guard helicopter also hovered in the crater but the crew determined they did not have enough power to maintain their location and hoist the man up.The first 911 call reporting the fall came in at 1 p.m. The call originated with the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, which is located along the Oregon Coast, but was then transferred to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.

It was a poor connection and the reporting party said a climber had fallen into the crater at Mount St. Helens, according to the sheriff’s office. The call was then dropped.Mount St. Helens is an active volcano in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  It is roughly halfway between Portland and Seattle. Thousands of people climb to the crater’s rim each year, but permits are required to go above 4,800 feet.A warning on the U.S. Forest Service Web site said the crater rim is “unstable and can be hazardous at any time.”

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