5 climbers lost at Reid Glacier
Saturday, May 12, 2007
On Saturday, May 12th a group of 5 climbers set out at 1:00 am with the
intention of climbing the Leuthold Couloir. Unfamiliar with the route,
the climbers took a turn too soon and began ascending steep terrain on the Reid
Glacier Headwall. At some point, they realized their error and began
their descent. As the climbers descended the Reid, conditions and
visibility had deteriorated significantly. Although they were equipped
with a Map, Compass, Altimeter and GPS, the climbers had difficulty
navigating. With weather moving in and darkness approaching, the climbers
decided to call 911 and activate their MLU.
Clackamas County Sheriff Office contacted Portland Mountain Rescue requesting
assistance around 6:50 pm. PMR was activated, and rescuers met at
Timberline Lodge. PMR’s Rocky Henderson was able to make cell phone
contact with the lost climbers around 7:00 pm. He provided them with GPS
coordinates and instructions to reach Illumination Saddle, which ultimately
allowed the climbers to self-rescue.
PMR personnel began assembling at Timberline Lodge at 8:00 pm.
Confirmation of an active MLU in the general direction of Illumination Saddle
was made and a hasty team of 5 rescuers was transported to the top of the
Palmer at 10:30 pm. Another MLU sweep was performed which indicated that
the active signal was then below the rescuers location and in the general
proximity of the Lodge. At approximately 11:15 pm the climbers were able
to walk out on their own, all in good shape. Hasty team returned to
Timberline, arriving at midnight.
While it is important to carry a Map, Compass, Altimeter and GPS, it is even
more crucial to know how to properly use this equipment. One example
would be to mark waypoints into a GPS of major features of the terrain while
traveling. The MLU device is helpful to rescuers, but it does not
initiate a rescue. The MLU works in conjunction with a cell phone, which
is needed to place a call out requesting help. More importantly, carrying
a MLU does not guarantee a rescue. It’s best for a person to be
prepared with good navigational and survival skills when attempting to push a
weather window in the mountains.