PMR Rescues 2 Climbers on Mt Hood's Yocum Ridge
Sunday, April 11, 2004  (Updated 04/13/04)
 
Early Sunday morning, members from Portland Mountain Rescue delivered two climbers to safety, approximately 18 hours after rescue efforts began on Mount Hood's treacherous Yocum Ridge.
 
The subjects, two men, called authorities around 12:30 PM PDT on Saturday to request help after they had become stranded off their intended route and one of the climbers injured his shoulder.  A team from PMR was already on the mountain during weekend "ready team" patrols and responded as soon as the Clackamas County (OR) Sheriff initiated the mission.  Unfortunately, the climbers were located on Yocum Ridge, one of the most difficult climbing routes on Mount Hood's West Face, making rescue efforts difficult and time consuming.
 
The subjects apparently had intended to climb the Leuthold Couloir route, which is a challenging but popular route just to the South of Yocum Ridge.  Apparently, the pair strayed far left of their intended route and ended up above the "Exit Gulley" of Yocum Ridge.  When one of the two climbers was injured and they became stranded, the men called for help using their cell phone and reported they were not sure if they were on Leuthold Couloir or Yocum Ridge.  This uncertainty created problems for rescuers, as locating the pair via ground search was difficult in the craggy expanse of Mount Hood's West Face.
 
Two PMR teams extensively searched the Reid Headwall and Leuthold Couloir routes (see photo at right), but to no avail.  Later in the day, a Blackhawk helicopter from the Oregon National Guard 1042nd Medical Company (see photo at right) flew over the area and was able to make visual contact with the two climbers.  The pair were indeed on Yocum Ridge at approximately 10,000 feet.
 
Eventually, a PMR team led by Marty Johnson ascended Leuthold Couloir and made verbal contact with the subjects.  However, the snow conditions made it too dangerous to attempt a rescue or allow the climbers to leave their position.  The warm temperatures - Portland reached a record high of 79 degrees on Saturday - had significantly softened the snow, making footholds and anchor points unstable, and creating a great deal of dangerous ice fall.
 
Under these circumstances, a helicopter extraction is usually the most feasible option.  However, an air rescue was not possible on this day due to the notoriously difficult terrain of Yocum Ridge.  Initially, a National Guard medic was inserted on the ridge, but he quickly aborted the mission due to his lack of experience on technical terrain.  A later plan to lower a PMR team member directly to the location of the climbers was called off because the helicopter's rotor wash could have literally swept the subjects off the mountain.  It became clear that the subjects would have to escape their predicament on foot.
 



Reference Map #1 (Wide)
 

PMR teams search on foot
 

1042nd Blackhawk searches
 

Subjects descending
 

A cold night on Mt Hood
 

Downclimbing Reid Headwall

 

The climbers began the descent from their position just before sunset on Saturday evening (see photo above right).  Rescuers could only provide verbal route finding assistance, as conditions were too dangerous to send up any teams. As darkness fell on the mountain, the PMR rescuers hunkered down on Reid Glacier and endured a cold, uncomfortable and sleepless night (see photo above right) while monitoring the climbers' progress.
 
Around 3:00 AM on Sunday, a PMR team led by Steve Rollins ascended a portion of the Leuthold Couloir route to get as close to the subjects as safely possible.  Once the climbers reached the PMR rescuers, they were provided with fluids to battle exhaustion and dehydration.  Shortly thereafter, the group descended onto the Reid Glacier, crossed several crevasses and ascended to Illumination Saddle where more help was waiting.  At the Saddle, paramedics from the American Medical Response Reach and Treat (RAT) Team delivered higher level care before the entire group descended a portion of the South Side to meet waiting sno-cats.
 
Around 6:00 AM on Sunday, the two climbers and the teams from PMR and AMR arrived at the safety of Timberline Lodge.  The nearly 18-hour ordeal was over and both subjects were fortunate to be alive and relatively well.