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Portland snowmobiler John Slemp is a record setter: He’s the only person on record to have fallen into the crater of Mt. St. Helens. What’s more, he’s got some kind of crazy luck: He actually survived. Slemp snowmobiled up to the west crater rim with his son and a friend to celebrate the son’s return from a tour of duty in Iraq.
They parked their sleds in a spot Slemp says he’s been to many times before and crept on all fours to look over the edge of a cornice of snow that hung over the edge. To no one’s surprise, the cornice gave way. The son and the friend scrambled to safety, but Slemp tumbled between 1,300-1,500 feet down the inner wall of the crater.
“It just gave way,” said Slemp, who’s been riding snowmobiles for 20 years. “I didn’t have a chance to do anything.”
Um, yeah — avalanches will do that. He did have the presence of mind to cover his mouth and raise a hand, but he landed without being buried. He tried to climb back up the crater but was rebuffed by more snow slides. Instead, he found a steam vent to huddle next to and keep warm. Before long, a rescue chopper pulled him from the crater.
Rescue officials say his hefty riding bibs and helmet likely saved his life, and all told Slemp escaped with just a few torn ligaments around his knees.
That’s some kind of luck…let’s hope it doesn’t embolden any other snowmobile riders to go cruise up the Emmons Glacier or something. — Ted Alvarez
Snowmobiler falls into Mount St. Helens’ crater: “I didn’t have a chance to do anything” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)