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Climber falls to death from atop Oregon's Mt Hood

By Teresa Carson

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A climber is thought to have fallen roughly 700 to 800 feet to his death from the top of Oregon's Mt. Hood on Tuesday as another stunned climber looked on, the Hood River sheriff's office said, in the first such fatality this year.

The fall was reported to authorities at about 8 a.m. local time by the other climber, who lost sight of the man after the fall in the Eliot Glacier area of the mountain.

The dead man, identified by the sheriff's office as a Catholic priest from New Jersey, was later spotted at about the 10,500-foot level of the mountain and was seen by both a fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter, but they saw no sign of life.

"His injuries appeared to be too severe to survive," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Authorities said 57-year-old Robert Cormier headed up the mountain before dawn on Tuesday with two men, one of whom later turned back due to a leg cramp. On reaching the summit, Cormier was seen falling through an ice cornice, a sort of shelf.

High temperatures and the extreme risk of an avalanche will prevent search crews from attempting a recovery of the body this week, the sheriff's office said.

Mt. Hood, about 60 miles east of Portland, is a popular climbing spot, with 8,000 to 10,000 climbs per year. The climbing season is at its peak and conditions were clear on Tuesday.

About two or three climbers lose their lives on the mountain every year, said Christopher Van Tilburg, a medical adviser with local volunteer search and rescue organization Crag Rats.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and; Clarence Fernandez)

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