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.