Experienced climber found dead in Mount St. Helens volcano crater 1,200 feet below summit

An experienced climber was found dead Saturday inside the crater of Mount St. Helens, a volcano in Washington state that attracts hikers, skiers and snowboarders year-round. Authorities say he was trying to snowboard and died after falling about 1,200 feet from the summit, where an icy ridge had cracked near the edge beneath his feet.

The climber was identified as Roscoe “Rocky” Shorey, a 42-year-old man from Washougal, Washington, according to the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office. In a statement, the office called Shorey an “experienced mountaineer” who had successfully reached the summit of Mount St. Helens 28 times previously.

When he arrived at the summit of Mount St. Helens, authorities believe Shorey encountered a huge ledge that broke away from the rest of the volcano and crashed toward the interior of the crater. A cornice is essentially an overhanging block of snow, tightly packed and perched atop a mountain ridge or ridge. They may become less robust and more difficult to detect in hot weather.

Washington Antennas
Mount St. Helens is seen Thursday, May 18, 2023, near Castle Rock, Washington.

Lindsey Wasson / AP

The sheriff said Shorey’s body was discovered Saturday by a group of climbers who reached the top of the mountain around 7 a.m. and noticed various personal items near the crater rim, including a backpack and digital recording devices. Nearby, a cornice of snow had broken away and toppled into the crater.

A search and rescue team managed to recover the body after being flown into the crater itself and then on foot to the remains.

“The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind mountain climbers of the dangers that hot weather poses to local mountain attractions,” their statement said.

The Sheriff’s Office will work with search and rescue teams to complete a more in-depth report on the circumstances surrounding Shorey’s death, with input from the Northwest Avalanche Center. A preliminary report from the avalanche center included findings similar to those released by the sheriff.

“NWAC is saddened to report an avalanche fatality following a cornice fall on Mount St. Helens,” the center said in a statement. “On Friday, March 29, 2024, a snowboarder reached the summit. While standing near the summit, he tripped a cornice and died. Our deepest condolences to the family, friends and community.”

Preliminary Report: NWAC is saddened to report an avalanche fatality following a cornice fall on Mount St. Helens….

Posted by Northwest Avalanche Center on Saturday March 30, 2024

Located in a national park in the Pacific Northwest, Mount St. Helens is about 50 miles north of Portland and 100 miles south of Seattle. It is an active, cone-shaped stratovolcano composed of numerous layers of hardened lava and other volcanic material that towers over nearby mountain ranges at an elevation of over 8,300 feet. After the volcano’s infamous eruption in 1980, there is a massive crater stretching for three kilometers at its summit, where its summit once stood.

Although there has been continued volcanic activity on Mount St. Helens for decades after the deadly eruption, authorities have estimated that thousands of people visit the crater rim each year, with even more people visiting the park and staying closer to the ground. A permit is required for climbers to reach the volcano’s summit above 4,000 feet.


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