College student falls to his death climbing Central Oregon mountain

Jul 20, 2023, 3:29 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm

BEND, Ore. (AP) — The body of a 21-year-old college student was located Thursday, days after he fell hundreds of feet down a steep, rocky ravine near the summit of North Sister in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains.

Joel Tranby loved the outdoors and was a big part of the community in the city of Bend, according to people who knew him, and his parents said they’re “devastated by the loss,” KTVZ-TV reported Wednesday. He helped coach his former high school’s Nordic Ski Team and was planning to graduate college in December.

Search and rescue personnel used information from drone video to locate Tranby’s body and then were able to spot it with their own eyes from a helicopter Thursday morning, according to Lane County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Tom Speldrich.

The loose, steep, rocky terrain made reaching him on foot impossible at least for now, Speldrich said, and members of the search team were consulting expert climbers to determine if a recovery mission can be conducted safely.

North Sister rises 10,085 feet (3,074 meters) and is known as a difficult climb because of the loose volcanic rock that makes up the mountainside and the lack of places to anchor ropes for protection, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

While climbing with his girlfriend on Monday, Tranby fell about 300 to 500 feet (90-150 meters) and was severely injured.

His girlfriend was able to use her phone to call for help but couldn’t see where Tranby had landed, Speldrich said.

“Unfortunately, he stopped responding verbally before searchers arrived,” Speldrich said.

The rescue effort included an Oregon National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, mountain rescue teams, a high-resolution camera and the small drone.

Tranby’s parents, April and David, expressed gratitude to the search crews, KTVZ-TV reported.

“Joel was doing something he loved, with the person he loved, in the outdoors and we know that brought him joy,” the parents’ statement said.

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College student falls to his death climbing Central Oregon mountain