lost in whiteout talked down by PMR with cell phone & GPS
February 4, 2007
Sometime after 1:00 am on Sunday,
February 4th the Clackamas County (OR) Sheriffs Office received a cell phone
call from 2 climbers that were apparently lost due to whiteout conditions. PMR
was notified and sent a small team up to Timberline to assess the situation,
while another team was put on standby.
The climbers were cold, wet and
unsure of their location. The climbers were able to talk to PMR via cell phone
and were able to give clues about their location. PMR determined that the
climbers were most likely at or near Zig Zag canyon and decided to talk the
climbers in, rather than to send teams out to retrieve them. The climbers
headed eastbound and came across a single climber who had also become
disoriented in the whiteout, but was using his GPS trying to find his own way
back. With PMR’s navigational assistance, all three climbers eventually walked
back to Timberline Lodge, arriving shortly after 4:00 am.
There are inherent dangers and risk
involved in mountain climbing. Weather conditions can change rapidly on Mt
Hood, and can be particularly hazardous in the winter. The most common problem
occurs when visibility becomes poor and climbers descend without the aid of map
and compass, thinking that if they simply go back downhill, they will surely
return to the Lodge. However, the fall line (route a ball will take if allowed
to roll down a slope) from the base of Crater Rock to about the elevation of
the top of the Palmer Ski Lift, does not fall toward Timberline Lodge to the
south, but rather southwesterly in the direction of Zig Zag canyon and the
cliffs of Mississippi Head.
PMR encourages climbers to study the
maps in the climber’s registration room, as well as, carry a map, compass and
GPS. It is also critical to remember to use these navigational instruments
before one becomes lost, especially when in limited-visibility conditions.