PMR Rescues a Stranded Climber

Shortly before 20:00 on Saturday, January 22, 2011 the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from Portland Mountain Rescue members who were on a Winter Bivy exercise to search for an overdue climber. The subject had summited that afternoon with two others, but broke a crampon during his descent. His two friends went on without him, and notified authorities when the subject did not return by nightfall. Point last seen was Crater Rock at 17:00.

Upon further questioning, the reporting party said that the subject did not have a headlamp and was not equipped to spend the night, but that he had a ‘beacon’ from REI. The reporting party had no idea what an MLU (Mountain Locator Unit) is or what kind of beacon the subject had, but said the subject would “pull the knob’ if something happened.” Based upon that report, PMR assumed the beacon was an MLU, so a MLU receiver was utilized. A signal was quickly found in the direction of White River Canyon.

Visibility was excellent, and both Timberline and Ski Bowl were lit for night skiing and clearly visible. Temperature was around freezing, and winds on the mountain were about 20 mph.

The subject was located east of the Palmer ski area at about 7,700 feet shortly before midnight, dressed in only a light coat and light gloves. To conserve heat, he had pulled his arms inside his coat and was huddled face down on the ground when he was found.

The subject was quickly given a down parka and pants, extra gloves with heat packs inside, and an extra hood. He was also fed warm liquids, GU, a Cliff Bar and other items to eat and drink. He was then helped to walk downhill to Silcox Hut where he was met by a snow cat and two paramedics from AMR. After a quick medical assessment and more heat packs, the patient and team were taken back to Timberline. Debriefs were concluded by 1:30 AM and team members were out of the field by 2:30 AM.

Climbers on Mt. Hood, even in excellent weather, should be equipped with the “10 Essentials” on every outing, as their lives may depend on it. This includes navigation tools (map, compass, GPS, and knowhow); skin and eye protection (sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses); extra clothes (gloves, hat, insulated jacket); extra food and water (for at least one day); a light source (headlamp or flashlight, extra batteries); first aid kid; signaling devices (whistle, cellphone, Mountain Locator Unit, PLB or SPOT); shelter (tarp or bivy sack, closed cell foam pad, aluminum snow shovel); stove and fuel, weatherproof matches or lighter.