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Climber's body recovered from Mount St. Helens

SEATTLE - The body of a veteran climber who fell 1,500 feet
into the crater atop Mount St. Helens was recovered Tuesday after
he spent more than a day in the snow, authorities said.
Clouds and wind had hampered efforts to reach Joseph Bohlig, 52,
who was posing for a picture Monday on the rim of the dormant
crater when a snow overhang gave way and he fell into the volcano.
“We’re sorry that he’s gone, that he didn’t make it,” said
Richard Bohlig, the climber’s 84-year-old father. “He was doing
something he enjoyed very much. That’s all I can say.”
Family members had gathered in Bohlig’s hometown of Kelso,
Wash., to await word on the search.
Earlier in the day, Bohlig said his son was an avid mountaineer
who had climbed peaks in many countries, but Mount St. Helens was
his home mountain.
“He used to go up even before the eruption as a child, play in
the snow and that,” he said.
A Navy helicopter found Bohlig on its second pass of the day at
the mountain.
The weather cleared long enough to spot his body, which had been
partially covered by snowfall, Skamania County Undersheriff David
Cox said.
Cox said an autopsy would be conducted to determine if Bohlig
died of injuries, hypothermia or a combination of factors.
Bohlig had taken off a layer of clothing to cool down after
reaching the summit and likely wasn’t protected against subfreezing
overnight temperatures, Cox said.
Two attempts to reach Bohlig by helicopter were turned back
Monday by winds and fading daylight after crews spotted him.
He had reached the summit with his friend Scott Salkovics after
a four-hour hike. Bohlig took off his backpack and some clothing
then decided to pose for pictures.
Salkovics told KGW that Bohlig handed a camera to another hiker
and was backing up when the snow gave way and he fell. The hiker
threw himself toward Bohlig but couldn’t catch him.
“Boom, it busted off and I saw him clawing for the edge with a
startled look on his face, and then he disappeared,” Salkovics
told the TV station.
Salkovics threw a backpack down to his friend, but Cox said
Bohlig was not able to reach it.
Bohlig was alive and blowing a rescue whistle soon after the
fall. He had climbed the volcano 68 times before the accident, Cox
The volcano, about 100 miles south of Seattle, exploded in a
massive eruption in 1980 but has been quiet in recent years.
The U.S. Forest Service said the climbing route provides views
of the crater, lava dome and eruption area. Most climbers can
complete the round trip in seven to 12 hours.
The trail reaches an elevation of 8,365 feet. Climbers are
advised to stay well back from the rim due to its instability.
North Country Emergency Medical Services Chief Tom McDowell, who
has been with the local emergency agency for 39 years, said the
only other time a person fell from the rim was in 2008 when a snow
cornice gave way under a snowmobiler, who was rescued by a
helicopter and suffered a knee injury.
About 13,000 people climb the mountain each year.

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