Jeff Kraemer

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What started out to be a great day turned out to be… Yep–a nightmare.

For most of my friends and I, and…you– we all live for time the mountain. We all have full-time jobs, we’re all 40 somethings, and each of us does something different for a living. I’m a commercial director and producer, my best friend and backcountry partner; Tom is a hydrologist. This day we were with several more of our extended friends, with one thing in common– backcountry skiing. Luckily all of us have discovered a summer passion, kiteboarding. I say “luckily” because it’s hard to chase the snow to the southern hemisphere, which we have all done in the past– but with kids, jobs, and daily pressures– it’s becoming more difficult to even afford to get away. We all live in Portland, Oregon and Hood River, but the entire group shares these experiences together as often as we can.

Not into watching television even though it was “superbowl sunday”; my buddies and I decided it was a great day to climb mt hood, and it was. We would definitely get some freshies, climb up as high as we could safely, then ski back down to the highway. There were 6 of us and myself. I was a bit more excited than the rest of the gang because I was out on my first day with a new camera and was sure to get some great pics of all of us shredding the gnar. We all left Timberline Lodge’s climbers lot mid-morning and succeeded in climbing up the mountain all the way to about 10,700 feet.

Since new snowfall hadn’t been around in about 4 or 5 days there were some very icy patches on the way up. Some call it boiler-plate, death-cookies– whatever it was– we all made it up safely and I was able to grab a group shot at the top before we circumnavigated Crater Rock and the Hogsback to ski down White River Headwall, and continue down the mountain. We thought about summiting; but none of us had exactly the right gear, like ropes or crampons. Even though the last couple hundred feet was a do-able boot pack, we all opted for the safer route which was to hit the summit another day.

We all had a great time on the way down, and I was able to get several decent shots of the gang, both in stills and video. We skied pretty far below Timberline Lodge where all our vehicles were, and decided because it was getting near dark to just skin back up rather than ski down to the highway. We all put our skins on and me being the photgrapher, went first traversing across a steep slope to get another sho of the group at twilight. Because it was getting dark, I couldn’t exactly see the ice, and thought it was softer than it was. I soon realized that I was on ice, and my buddies were all watching me carefully step across a steep icefield. This wasn’t “high up” on the mountain– it was only 4800′ – 5000′. They all said after I slipped they wondered why I was going so slow. Well, I slipped and couldn’t self arrest and ended up sliding about 200 feet to the bottom of the canyon we were in. I hit some small trees on the way down.

When I did finally stop sliding– I realized I couldn’t move my leg. At first I thought it was broken, or *something. I’m very thankful of all my friends and buddies who aided in my rescue– the last picture which I did not include in my picture entry– is me in a “backcountry basket” getting hauled out by Mt. Hood Reach and Treat Team.

After about an exhausting 12 hours of a rescue operation –to go less than one mile, it was very late / early in the morning by now, but I did finally make it to a hospital with a dis-located hip. I knew I was very lucky, but thankful for being with a great group of friends who helped me get through a very difficult time. Also thanks to Mt. Hood RAT team who brought in the sled, or kitty as they called it– to a very difficult area to extricate me.

I hope to be back skiing this season, even if it’s only to take pics of my friends. It’s been 4 weeks and I’ve lost my crutches and walking again. The doc says no– but… we’ll see about that… :)