Cooper died last Wednesday morning during a snow slide on Mount Shuksan in North Cascades National Park.
Cooper was well known in the Ballard community where he lived with his family and one of his two children attends Whittier Elementary School.
According to North Cascades National Park Ranger Kelly Bush, Cooper and a friend were scaling the north face of Mount Shuksan (pictured above) with ice axes, planning to reach Summit Pyramid before skiing back down, when snow above them came loose.
Coopers friend crouched down, narrowly avoiding the avalanche, however, Cooper was swept away in the snow for about 2,000 feet. After the snow slid away, Cooper’s friend searched for him but could no longer see any sign of him or his locator beacon.
According to Bush, both men were skilled in both skiing and climbing, they wore crampons and carried skis on their backs. They were also not roped together when the snow slid.
Due to the unsteady snow above, Cooper’s friend hiked down the mountain in search of cell phone reception and dialed 911. He then stayed waiting on the mountain for ground search-and-rescue teams with Bellingham Mountain Rescue and Whatcom County Search and Rescue, who met him on his way down.
A rescue helicopter was then dispatched which sadly discovered that Cooper had not survived the fall, finding his body about 2,000 feet below the slide at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Due to the potential for continued unstable snow conditions, Cooper’s body was not recovered by rescue teams until about 10 a.m. on Thursday.
The Ballard and Whittier Heights communities are now in mourning over the tragic loss. Whittier Elementary Principal Melissa Schweitzer staff sent a heartfelt email to the school community to inform them of the sad news. “Our hearts go out to Jill and John’s loved ones,” writes Schweitzer.
A website has been created in John’s memory where locals can both share their memories and offer their assistance to the Cooper family through meal and monetary donations.
A memorial service was held for Cooper at Sunset Hill Community Center yesterday afternoon.
Our thoughts are with John Cooper’s family and friends at this time.
Photo of Mount Shuksan courtesy of our news partners at The Seattle Times.