Injured 68 yr-old male climber transported off Mt. Hood

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Subject was a 68 year old male with a broken leg. The subject is an experienced climber and a climb leader with the Mazamas, a Portland, Oregon mountaineering club. He had fallen on rough icy surface conditions even though he was wearing crampons at the time. The subject fell approximately fifty feet before self arresting. The leg injury occurred as he came to a stop. He was located at the 9,350 foot level on the South Side Route of Mount Hood. For reference, the top of the highest ski lift is at 8,540 feet and the Hogsback is at 10,400 feet. The subject had been climbing alone but it wasn’t long before he was joined by two other climbers who offered him assistance. A cell phone was used to alert the sheriff and initiate a rescue. The subject was carrying a Mountain Locater Unit (MLU) – a locating device used exclusively on Mount Hood – and he activated it. The MLU, like a personal locating beacon (PLB) sends out a locating signal; however, it does not send any alerting message that it has been activated. Its primary use is to help rescuers to find a subject. Because of fair weather conditions, daylight, and that the subject’s location was already known, the MLU did not play a role in the rescue.

A PMR ready team was at Timberline Ski Area that day and responded to the situation at 4:00pm. After retrieving gear from the Portland Mountain Rescue cache, seven ready team members, and two members of American Medical Response’s (AMR) reach and treat (RAT) team boarded a snow cat to reach the fallen climber. The snow cat was able to reach a point above the top of the Palmer Lift but still considerable distance below the subject. The rescue team proceeded to the subject on foot carrying all the necessary medical and rescue equipment. In this case, the patient was given medical attention and quickly packaged into a Cascade Toboggan for the trip down the hill. The toboggan-litter was lowered from a succession of snow anchors with four rescuers controlling and stabilizing the toboggan. Other rescuers rigged anchors, manned the belay, and monitored the patient. The litter handling team had to angle uphill to the east in order to meet the snow cat which had retreated to the top of the Palmer Snowfield. After the litter was lowered two full rope lengths (a total of 1,200 feet), the lower-angled terrain allowed the team to safely transport the patient using only the litter attendants. This speeded the patient’s travel to the snow cat and he was loaded into the cat about 8:00 PM.