Father Robert Cormier
Father Robert Cormier
HOOD RIVER - A 57-year-old Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey fell to his death on the northeast side of Mount Hood Tuesday morning.

Father Robert Cormier, of Jersey City, N.J., fell nearly 1,000 feet near Eliot Glacier on the south side of the mountain, say officials. Another climber who witnessed the fall, which happened at about 8 a.m., said Cormier was on the summit and looked north, when he fell through a cornice (an overhang of snow) to his death.

Father Cormier was climbing in a party of three people, according to Hood River Sheriff's Sgt. Pete Hughes.

"We’ve had this happen a few times where people have gone to take a look over to the north side of the mountain and actually fallen off the north side, which is a sheer face," said Sgt. Hughes.

Cormier was active for 31 years in the Archdiocese of Newark. He was also an author and pilot.

Father Cormier's climbing group ascended from Timberline Lodge, the traditional south side approach to the summit, and left at about 1:45 a.m. Officials said Cormier was climbing ahead of his party because another climber in the group had a leg cramp.

Conditions on the mountain were clear Tuesday, with temperatures ranging from the 50s at Timberline Lodge to the 30s near the summit. Avalanche danger has been high, due to the warm conditions and recent heavy snowfall.

Searchers located Cormier's body on the Eliot Glacier headwall, in a crevasse, at about 10,500 feet above sea level, according to the sheriff's office.

Conditions were unsafe for rescuers and crews will not attempt to recover the body this week due to avalanche dangers, deputies said.