PMR Rescues Injured Skier In Mt Hood Backcountry
Thursday, May 16, 2002
(Updated Sunday, May 19, 2002)
 
Late Thursday evening, at the request of the Clackamas County (Oregon) Sheriff, Portland Mountain Rescue extricated an injured extreme skier from the Mount Hood Wilderness.
 
The 19-year-old male victim sustained an eye laceration and two fractured vertebrae after a fall in the backcountry just West of Mississippi Headwall.  Accompanied by two friends, the skier had been making 50-foot jumps off a hand built snow ramp at the edge of an upper branch of Zig Zag Canyon (see photo at right).
 
Click photo to enlarge
The hand built ski jump at the edge of Zig Zag Canyon.
However, he did not successfully land his last "big air" jump and fell awkwardly.  Unable to self arrest, the skier slid approximately 80 feet down the steep 40 degree Canyon wall (see photo at right).
 
His back injuries prevented him from walking out of the Canyon, and their decision to ski out of bounds meant that the Timberline Ski Patrol would not be aware of their situation.
 
Click photo to enlarge
A detailed graphic of the accident site.
One of his companions called the Sheriff at 9-1-1 and PMR was later dispatched to bring the victim out of the Canyon.
 
The accident occurred at an elevation of 6,720 feet in a remote area approximately 1 mile West-Southwest of the top of the Palmer ski lift and about 2 miles Northwest of Timberline Lodge.  This area is part of the Mount Hood Wilderness and requires persons to obtain a wilderness access permit.  Mississippi Head is a wide and steep cliff face overlooking Zig Zag Canyon and can be a dangerous area for backcountry skiers, snowboarders and climbers - regardless of their experience level.
 
A Reach and Treat (RAT) Team from American Medical Response, already on the mountain, was the first rescue group to reach the victim.  The AMR medics stabilized the skier and immobilized his back to prevent further injury.  A PMR team arrived at the scene shortly before 9:00 pm and, over the next 2 hours, was able to package the patient in a rescue litter and raise him out of the Canyon.  Strapped into a litter, the victim was hauled 1,200 feet up the steep incline to a waiting Timberline Sno-Cat.  The vehicle transported the skier to an AMR ambulance stationed at Timberline Lodge.
 
The rescue mission was completed at approximately 12:15 am, slightly more than 6 hours after receiving the Sheriff's request.  PMR is a volunteer organization with most members residing in the Portland metropolitan area, so there may be up to a 2 hour lead time during weekday missions, allowing members to commute the 50-70 miles to the mountain.  On Saturdays and Sundays during the main climbing season (April to July), PMR maintains Ready Teams at the Timberline Ski Area to proactively interact with climbers and eliminate travel lead times in the event of an accident.
 
As of Friday evening, the victim had been released from the hospital and, fortunately, is free from any spinal cord injury.