Rescue volunteer: Snowboarder recovery was mentally, physically taxing

Rescue volunteer: Snowboarder recovery was mentally, physically taxing »Play Video
This photo, taken Sunday, Aug. 4, shows a Portland Mountain Rescue team works to recover the body of Collin Backowski on Mount Hood. (Photo by Richard Hallman)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Rocky Henderson said it was one of his toughest missions yet.

Henderson is a Portland Mountain Rescue volunteer who was with the team that recovered the body of 25-year-old Collin Backowski, a snowboarder who died on Mount Hood after an ice cave collapsed on him Saturday afternoon.

The rescue crew found his body just before 9 a.m. Sunday under eight to ten feet of snow and ice. They dug out snow and ice with chainsaws and other tools, removing several tons of debris by hand.

Professional photographer Richard Hallman went up the mountain with the rescue team and took photos of the recovery effort.

Backowski was trapped on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain. The group of snowboarders was at about 8,100 feet when Backowski was buried.

Henderson said he’s been a volunteer with Portland Mountain Rescue since 1986. Sunday’s recovery was the first time he used a chainsaw on one of his missions.

“What we were doing was sawing with the chainsaw. Sawing columns,” he said.

After a couple of hours of digging, Henderson said the crew stopped, wondering why they hadn’t found Backowski’s body yet.

“It was probably as mentally taxing as it was physically,” he said. “Just wanting to solve the problem.”

After nearly four hours, they found the body and took him down the mountain.

Henderson said he sees his work with Portland Mountain Rescue as his job and his service to the community.