Mountaineer survived 1,200-foot fall into Mount St. Helens crater, died trying to climb out, rescuers say


A massive chunk of hardened snow tumbled into the void below him as Roscoe Shorey dug his fingers into the edge of the cornice in a desperate attempt to stop his fall.

He couldn’t hold on, leaving deep gouges in the snow as he slid off the edge and plummeted about 1,200 feet, landing in an avalanche triggered by the piece of the cornice that had fallen from under him at the top of Mount St. Helens. The mass of snow carried him deeper into the crater.

As the snow settled around him last Friday, Shorey no doubt thought he was lucky to be alive.

But the 42-year-old Washougal man, known to friends and family as Rocky, was alone. He was wearing only snowboard boots, synthetic pants and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt. His jacket, cellphone, SOS satellite device and backpack were at the top of the crater where, minutes earlier, he was documenting his summit of the mountain.

Shorey pulled himself out of the snow and looked up to the top of the crater. He started to climb up the icy, snow-packed, near-vertical interior wall toward the rim.

He didn’t make it.

Shorey’s death on March 29 shocked the mountaineering community that knew him for his unquenchable thirst for adventure, new and old friendships and dessert. Tributes have poured out on his Facebook page, with friends posting pictures of themselves eating his favorite treat — a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Some friends have struggled to grasp that a man as experienced as Shorey died on Mount St. Helens, generally considered a relatively safe and easy climb compared to most other peaks in the Pacific Northwest.

It was his 28th summit of the mountain. He had reached the top of Mount Hood — a far more challenging climb — more than 40 times. And he had climbed tougher mountains all around the world.

Officials announced Shorey’s death March 30, adding a warning for people to stay away from the edge of the Mount St. Helens crater because cornices — overhanging accumulations of snow — can suddenly give way, especially during unseasonably warm weather.

But details of the fall have emerged that point to Shorey suffering an even more harrowing ordeal than initially reported.

The men who recovered his body found evidence that he survived the initial fall and tried repeatedly to climb back over the crater rim, in nothing but snowboard boots and pants and a thin shirt, before falling a second, and final, time.

“He gave it everything he could to survive,” said Derek Langdon, who coordinated the operation to retrieve Shorey’s body. “We were all thinking, like, ‘Who is this guy, who is this person?’”

Langdon added: “He almost made it to the top.”

An indefatigable will to keep going regardless of the odds was a mindset that Shorey and his sister, Heather Shorey, got from their mother, a Filipino immigrant who spent her early life in extreme poverty before moving to Hawaii.

Heather and Rocky Shorey were born in Hawaii and moved with their parents to Vancouver, Washington, in 1988.

Heather Shorey said their mother’s death, at 49, from bile duct cancer, devastated the two siblings and shaped the people they grew up to become — especially her brother, who, she said, went on to live as if he couldn’t waste a second. Rocky Shorey went to business school and became a personal trainer and mountaineering guide, while building a life around the outdoors.

And he never let up.

Last September, he went whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River one week and was in a helicopter touring the Swiss Alps the next. In October he was scuba diving with manta rays in Hawaii while visiting his sister, who lives there, and in November he rock-climbed at Smith Rock Park and then went up Mount St. Helens for the 22nd time. In December he trekked through the Himalayas and climbed up Mount St. Helens several more times.

“He lived life with a zest and vibrancy that most of us will never understand,” said Bret Barnum, who met Shorey about 20 years ago. “And in his 42 years of short life, he definitely lived well over 100 years worth of life.”

Videos and photos from his climbs up Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens routinely showed up on Shorey’s Instagram feed. On March 14, he filmed a 360-degree view from the top of St. Helens as the snow crunched under his boots amid wind gusts, followed by shots of him snowboarding down the mountain.

“Taking advantage of another beautiful day to get my 27th summit on Mt Saint Helens,” he wrote. “Snow was a bit firmer than I expected but still got some good turns in