Climber rescued after fall on Mount Hood says he's been 'awarded a second chance at life'

Josh Hawk, 35, with his wife and three kids st Legacy Emanuel Hospital - KATU photo

The 35-year-old climber who fell hundreds of feet on Mount Hood on Saturday is sharing his story of survival.

The Portland pastor, husband, and father spoke in front of TV cameras from his wheelchair at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center on Tuesday. He is still listed in serious condition, but with his family by his side, he had a smile on his face.

"I am a miracle. I sit here before you truly blessed, awarded a second chance at life. So I am incredibly, incredibly grateful for that," Josh Hawk said.

Saturday morning, Hawk climbed to the summit of Mount Hood with a friend and planned to ski down. Hiking conditions were ideal. Hawk says he has climbed the summit seven times in the past.

"The sun was out, the clouds were about five to six thousand feet, we could see all the surrounding mountains. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous day to be on the mountain," he said.

While climbing conditions were perfect, skiing conditions were not. It was too icy when Hawk dropped in to ski down. After making two turns, he says he lost his edge.

"I tumbled and flipped and rolled and felt like a rag doll. Hundreds and hundreds of feet down the entire Coalman Glacier," said Hawk.

He couldn't stop his fall.

"I tried using my boots, I tried using my pole, I was clawing at anything. At that moment I was certain I was going to die," Hawk said. "I knew the terrain, I knew what was awaiting me, I knew the rocks at the bottom, I knew if I went a little too far west I would fall off a cliff, I knew there were crevasses."

Rescuers says Hawk came to rest just feet from another steep drop. Hawk says he blacked out.

When he came to, Hawk says another climber was by his side. That is when a daring, 10-hour rescue began.

"I will be forever grateful for the 30-plus men who risked their lives to bring me safely down the mountain. I don't remember any of their names. I would love to talk with them, have lunch, have coffee with them, exchange stories, and express my gratitude for them," said Hawk.

Crews from Portland Mountain Rescue, Hood River CragRats, AMR Reach and Treat, and the Clackamas County Search and Rescue all helped Hawk down Mount Hood.

An Army Air National Guard helicopter was called in to scoop Hawk off the mountain. They tried three times to get him, but it was too windy.

"I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway at that point. 'No wait, I'm over here,'" said Hawk.

The pilot landed in the Timberline Lodge parking lot to wait for Hawk. Rescuers spent hours slowly lowering him hundreds of feet with rope to the top of the Palmer Lift. At one point they had to use a pendulum to get him over a steep cliff.

"In that situation, my life, I was completely dependent on somebody else. Completely dependent on the 30 other rescuers and their plan," Hawk said.

Hawk has a broken ankle, broken wrist, broken scapula, and multiple broken ribs. His head was cut open and needed nine staples. His upper body is covered in a rash from falling on the ice.

Lauren Hawk, Josh's wife, says she is overwhelmingly grateful.

"I certainly was imagining that I could be identifying a body in a morgue," said Lauren. "He should be dead, or he should be much worse off than he is, and he's not. It defies logic. It defies everything I know about everything."

Hawk says he learned a lot in this experience. He says he has a greater respect for the mountain. It will take a few weeks for Hawk to recover, but he says he is not going to stay away from the mountain for too long, and will likely climb Mount Hood again.

"I can't give up skiing; I can't give up hiking. Maybe putting those together, I'll think two, three, four times," said Hawk. "I've definitely developed a deeper respect for that mountain, and being much more careful, but we live in a beautiful part of the country, and I love being out and enjoying it."

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