PMR comes to the aid of climbers on Mt. Adams
Sunday, July 2, 2006
It was early in the morning on July 2nd when the pagers went off to activate PMR for a mission on Mt. Adams. Initial information indicated 2 subjects at the 8,500 foot level on the standard south side route - a 15 year old female with a possible ankle injury and a 21 year old male with hypothermia. Carpooling arrangements were coordinated, packs were packed, and rescuers caught that precious, one-more-hour of sleep before leaving for the 6:00 am rendezvous time.
Two evacuations of injured climbers in that location may be quite a task making for a long day requiring a small army of rescuers. Despite the holiday weekend, PMR still responded with seven rescuers – more than any other responding unit. PMR was the fourth team deployed for the mission and the last to enter the field. Central Washington Mountain Rescue (CWMR), Tacoma Mountain Rescue (TMR) and the Volcano Rescue Team (VRT) were already enroute to the subjects when PMR left the SAR base. It was dawning a beautiful day with the promise of heating up as the day progressed. Since the other teams had entered the field with the necessary gear for the rescue, PMR moved fast in an attempt to catch the other teams. This was going to be a group effort involving all four units to get these two off the mountain.
As the rescue progressed the details of the circumstances also became clearer. Apparently, the two subjects had been traveling with a larger group for a one-day push to the summit of Mt Adams. The others turned back while these two continued on. While descending and glissading in less than ideal, deep slush conditions, the mountain gods rose up and sucked one of the girl’s light-weight trail running shoes right off her foot. Unable to locate her shoe in the sea of warming slush, they both sat in dismay at their situation. How could they proceed through the snow with only one shoe? Luckily a passing climber, also a member of Central Washington Mountain Rescue on a personal climb, happened upon them and assisted them down to his high camp at the “Lunch Counter” near the 8,500 foot level. Apparently, in an attempt to help protect her foot, an ankle splint was used as a makeshift shoe. It was upon seeing this “splinted ankle” that the caller who initiated the rescue initially reported the injury. As the day wound down, both subjects began to get cold. Her Capri style sweat pants, t-shirt and light-weight wind breaker were wet and not up to the task of keeping her warm through the long night. As uncomfortable as her night was, the male subjects was not much better. It was in the middle of the night that he realized that his lack of sunglasses and sunscreen on such a dazzling and sunny day was going to only result in more discomfort as the night wore on. This coupled with the fact that his jeans and jacket were also drying slower than hoped, made for a long night for him also.
As PMR made progress up the route, CWMR made contact with the subjects and began evaluating the situation. It was with relief that we learned neither subjects were seriously injured and that one of the rescuers had the foresight to actually bring that oft forgotten 11th item of the 10 essentials – shoes - provided earlier by her waiting family at SAR base. As PMR reached the 8,000 foot level, we caught up with TMR and VRT as they lounged on some nearby rocks awaiting the arrival of the subjects. They were positioned at the top of a steep snow slope that would have required the rigging of a lowering system to ensure the safe passage of the subjects while in litters. However, since both subjects were ambulatory and walking out with the guidance of the rescuers, our biggest challenge came down to how do we redistribute all this rescue gear amongst the available rescuers to get it back down the mountain. As the subjects and CWMR came upon our location, introductions were made, gear distributed and the long journey down began. It was with curious looks that we passed climbers heading up – with all 16 of us rescuers with big packs, fully outfitted, and carrying a wide assortment rescue gear simply “escorting” two subjects down the mountain.
Her family met us part way up the trail as we neared SAR base and the trailhead. They exchanged sighs of relief, smiles and hugs and kisses as we all stood by. As the entourage began moving forward again, her father stood to the side of the trail and shook the hand of each rescuer and offered a heart-felt thank you for what we had done. We all headed home tired but grateful to have spent another beautiful day in the mountains with such a fortunate and happy ending.