One Tulsa man is watching the events unfold on Mt. Hood with special interest. Retired Army Sgt. Paul Nonan was part of a group that climbed Mt. Hood back in 1982, when they too were caught in a surprise blizzard and snowstorm.
News on 6 reporter Steve Berg talked with him on Friday.
Nonan's Army regiment was doing training on Mt. Hood. As you can imagine, they were a resourceful bunch. And wait until you hear how they beat out the storm. It was March of 1982 when Sgt. Paul Nonan's group reached the summit of Mt. Hood. It was Nonan's very first experience with mountain climbing. "As we looked out to the west, just like these 3 guys are facing, I mean you could just see massive clouds rolling in. So that's when we knew it's time to keep calm and time to get out of Dodge."
He says they took just enough time to snap a couple of pictures and headed down. "We were level-headed, what we thought were level-headed. We were prepared. And those are the things that will get you through the hard times."
But the gear they had in 1982 is downright primitive by today's standards. No GPS. He says they had a compass instead. No Goretex, try leather and canvas. He showed us how they used a coffee can and a candle for a makeshift heater. "Our sleeping bags were bulky, theirs are light. I mean, we're better prepared now."
The latest news is that the men had good equipment for the climb. Nonan says it's also a good sign that one of the men might be in a snow cave. "Take your skis, run it over the top of that hole, throw something over the top. And you can survive. It's as warm as toast if you do it right."
Nonan didn't have to build a snow cave though. They came up with the idea to turn their heavy backpacks into sleds. "We took the skis off, tied them down with string, rope, whatever we had, took that and went down the mountain that way." He says they made it down the mountain in half the time and beat the worst of the storm. "If we would have had to lug all that stuff, then it would have been our turn."
Nonan says times might change, but climbing doesn't. He says no matter the gear, it's a huge, physical challenge.