CRATER LAKE, Ore. — On a clear day, Crater Lake’s iconic blue water can be seen from any viewpoint. During the winter time, the snow banks which build up beyond the concrete walls can be tempting for visitors to climb on to take a closer look at the lake. These banks, called cornices, can be deadly because they extend out further than the rim itself.
A stack of snowshoes piled up Thursday afternoon at the rim cafe with no takers due to the poor weather. This is the last place a man visiting the park from out of state was seen. Park rangers said when a man rented snowshoes on April 28th, but didn’t return, they began a search.
“Wednesday evening, we were able to connect with someone else who had rented snow shoes that same day who had found a personal item belonging to the individual up the Garfield Peak Trail,” said Crater Lake Park Spokesperson, Marsha McCabe.
Park rangers then found a car belonging to the man parked near the trailhead and focused their search.
“When rangers went to investigate, they noticed that off of the trail, there was a set of snow shoe tracks leading to the edge, to where a cornice had broken off, and the snowshoe tracks didn’t come back,” said McCabe.
Park rangers believe the missing snowshoe hiker fell more than a thousand feet to the ground below. In the past week, rangers, volunteer skiers and aircraft have all been used in the search.
“Use the helicopter to fly as close as we safely could to the caldera wall and use binoculars and spotting scopes to look at the lake shore,” said McCabe.
McCabe said snowshoeing is not uncommon at all and ranger-led tours are offered through the end of April. Snowshoeing alone is also not unheard of, but all hikers are warned of the dangers.
“When folks rent snowshoes, they’re given a lot of information about being careful and the risk that could be involved,” said McCabe.
Rangers said the search has been scaled back for now, until the area below can be reached by boat in June.
McCabe said this isn’t the first time someone has fallen from a collapsed cornice. The last time it happened was in the mid 90’s when a girl fell and her father went after her. Both of those visitors survived the fall.