National Forest Urges Safety After Glissading Accidents on Mount St. Helens

By Kyle Spurr
kspurr@chronline.com
Gifford Pinchot National Forest officials issued a message this week reminding Mount St. Helens climbers to not purposely slide down the active volcano after a day on the mountain.
The reminder may seem obvious, but the Forest Service is serious about glissading down Mount St. Helens after a 26-year-old woman recently ended up hospitalized from deliberately sliding down the ice and snow.

Netsanet Habtu, 26, Seattle, was with a group of five people July 7 when she lost control sliding down the mountain, hit some rocks and suffered head and facial injuries, Tom McDowell, Assistant Chief of North Country Emergency Medical Services, said.

Glissading down Mount St. Helens is fun, but can be dangerous. Authorities are warning that quickly melting snow means that a slide down the mountain can end on rocks with painful results. They urge caution when descending the mountain.

The accident occurred around the 4,800-foot level of Mount St. Helens, about where a 14-year-old Boy Scout from Vancouver was also injured on July 3 from apparently falling down the mountain, McDowell said.
The boy temporality lost consciousness after hitting a rock as he fell.
McDowell said he believes both climbers have recovered from their accidents.
For the climbers who purposely slide down the mountain, McDowell said they tend to use large pieces of plastic.
Unlike sledding in a backyard as a child, McDowell said sliding down the mountain on a piece of plastic is dangerous and can easily get out of control.
Despite the danger, McDowell said many climbers still slide down each year and need to remember to scope out the area before sliding.
“They should look around to where they will end up,” McDowell said.
The safety reminder comes at a busy time of year for Mount St. Helens climbing.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest spokesperson Ken Sandusky said climbing permits for the summer are sold out, but climbers can still check purmit.com for possible unused or cancelled permits.
Permits for climbing from May 15 through Oct. 31 cost $22 each.

Mount St. Helens Safety Precautions:
• Climbing parties should use good judgment and take special care of weaker members and novice climbers
• Be prepared for treacherous slopes (steep and slick, with dangerous areas below), especially on the way down, going from the basin at timberline to the crest of Monitor Ridge
• Before climbing, gain knowledge of competent ice axe or ski poles use on all snow slopes and the ability to self-arrest a fall under any conditions
• Be aware of receding snow on current glissade paths higher on the Mountain, exposing rock hazards
• Stay well back from cornices along the summit rim
• Prepare for warming temperatures demanding climbers carry three liters of water at a minimum
• Know and use proper footwear, clothing, sun protection and sunglasses
• Prepare and carry gear for bad weather
• Carry a first aid kit and use it
• Experienced Forest Service climbing personnel and volunteers are present to assist in emergencies, but personal safety is ultimately the climber’s responsibility
Source: U.S. Forest Service