PMR, Climbers & 1042nd Rescue Two on Reid Glacier
Saturday, April 3, 2004
A Saturday morning recreational climb turned into a dramatic rescue, as a PMR
member discovered two mountaineers who had just been injured in an accident on
the West Face of Mount Hood. To make matters more difficult, the weather
created treacherous conditions for helicopter crews, as near zero visibility
hampered the rescue effort.
Iain Morris, a PMR rescue leader, had skied from the summit of Mount Hood to
the saddle near Illumination Rock (see map for details) when he saw two people
laying on the snow of Reid Glacier. Noting this as unusual, Morris
summoned PMR Rescue leader Chris LeDoux and her climbing partner Grace Radke,
who were also near Illumination Saddle on their own recreational climb.
The three managed to make verbal contact with the injured climbers and Morris
radioed to other PMR members on the mountain that a rescue was in progress.
Morris and LeDoux requested help from two backcountry skiers who were in the
area and the group gathered as much gear as they could from their personal
equipment. Morris descended on skis to the Reid Glacier and shortly
reached the injured party.
The subjects, a man and a woman, had apparently fallen at least 1,000 feet down
a steep chute in the Castle Crags area on the West Face of Mount Hood.
Upon assessment, Morris determined that the man had a possible head injury, a
broken leg, lacerations, mild hypothermia and symptoms of shock. The
woman had a broken ankle, lacerations, mild hypothermia and symptoms of shock.
By this time, Radke arrived along with a mountain guide named Matt who had come
across the group at Illumination Saddle. This small group of volunteers,
with very little rescue or medical equipment, attempted to stabilize the
patients as much as possible.
General map of scene
1042nd rescuer hoist
Morris determined that a helicopter evacuation was warranted due to the
condition of the patients and the remote location on the mountain. He
radioed for the activation of the Salem-based National Guard 1042nd Medical
Company, who were training in the Portland area at the time. (One of the
backcountry skiers, named Robert, assisted with radio communications relays in
order to do this.)
At this same time, PMR members Marty Johnson and Erik Broms, along with a
volunteer named Pete, descended to Timberline to assemble rescue gear in case a
ground evacuation would be necessary. Just like the others involved on
this day, they happened to be on the mountain that day and were able to help in
a short period of time.
Within about 30 minutes, three 1042nd Blackhawk helicopters arrived at Mount
Hood and lowered two medics and their equipment on to Reid Glacier. To
assist, LeDoux and a former ski patroller named Chris Kouba descended from
Illumination Saddle to the scene. The medics and the on-scene volunteers
stabilized the patients and packed them in basket litters for evacuation.
Unfortunately, a thick bank of clouds moved in on the area and visibility
dropped to near zero, forcing the Blackhawks to wait at nearby Timberline
Lodge. At this time, two more PMR members arrived at the Lodge to assist
the other rescuers in hauling equipment up the mountain for a possible ground
evacuation. Shortly thereafter, three other PMR members arrived at the
Lodge to support the mission.
Within about 20 minutes, the clouds that had enveloped Mount Hood dissipated
and the helicopters were able to return to the scene.
Two 1042nd choppers performed five hoist operations to retrieve the two
patients, the two medics and a load of rescue equipment before taking the
injured climbers to Portland area hospitals. The exact condition of the
two climbers is not known, but both are expected to survive their harrowing
PMR would like to stress that this rescue was originally not part of a formal
exercise and that our initially responding members were on the mountain that
day for recreational climbing only. Fortunately, many of our volunteers
carry their own search and rescue radios while on the mountain for
communication in just these types of situations.
PMR would also like to thank the multiple people who pitched in to help with
patient care, radio communications and equipment hauling, as well as the
skilled members of the National Guard 1042nd Medical Company. This timely
rescue would not have been possible without the help of everyone involved.