Cory Johnston planned to celebrate his 47th birthday with a day of skiing on Mount Hood. His wife had planned a surprise dinner party for him that evening.

Johnston, a talented surgeon and father of two young boys, never made it off the mountain.

On Tuesday, two climbers discovered him injured around 12:30 p.m. on the slopes above the Timberline ski resort in an area known as Illumination Saddle, at an elevation of about 9,400 feet. Crews tried to rescue him but he died on the mountain before paramedics could reach him.

Officials said Johnston was back-country skiing and fell from an unknown height. Portland Mountain Rescue told KOIN News that the area was covered in icy bumps sometimes known as “chicken heads” or “ice heads” that would have made the slopes impossible to ski down.

Johnston worked as a surgeon at Providence Hood River Memorial hospital, authorities said; he was specially trained through a fellowship in rural surgery and had several specialties, including laparoscopic surgery, surgical oncology and managing pancreatitis.

KGW News obtained a note from Providence Hood River to staff members about Johnston’s death. The letter said that Johnston joined the hospital in 2012. His wife, Pippa Newell, is a cancer researcher and physician, also with Providence. They have two children.


A neighbor told KOIN News that Tuesday was Johnston’s birthday and that his wife had planned a surprise party for him, but canceled the event after she grew concerned when he failed to return from the mountain.

“He was the most amazing dad and husband. I mean that was truly where his heart was at,” said the neighbor, Jan Veldhuisen Virk.

Johnston’s death marks the third fatality on Mount Hood this month, with two snowboarders dying within days of each other at the Mount Hood Meadows ski resort over Presidents Day Weekend.

On Feb. 14, Tim Bauters, a 47-year-old engineer from California and father of two, was reported missing after going to ride at the resort. His body was found in a gully several days later in the resort’s Heather Canyon area.

On Feb. 16, Ryan Zeitner, a 45-year-old Portland man, slipped on a patch of ice in the same area of the resort where Bauters was found. Several other people were also injured in the Heather Canyon area, known for its rugged terrain and steep slopes. Despite the efforts of ski patrollers and emergency crews, Zeitner died of his injuries, leaving behind his wife, Amanda, and a young son.

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