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Portland Mtn Rescue
P.O. Box 5391
Portland, Oregon

503-222-PMRU (7678)


PMR Assists Climber Injured by Rockfall Near the Sandy Glacier
June 28, 2009

On Sunday, June 28, two climbers were ascending Mt. Hood by the Sandy Glacier Headwall route when a falling rock struck one of them on the upper leg, fracturing his femur. The injured climber's partner moved him to a safer location, left him with food, gear and water, and headed toward the Timberline ski area in search of help. En route, he encountered a member of Portland Mountain Rescue, who notified the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and initiated a formal PMR mission.

Fortunately for the injured climber, the Mountain Rescue Association was celebrating its 50th anniversary with meetings and training session at Timberline Lodge that weekend, so numerous PMR volunteers and the unit's truck laden with rescue gear were already nearby.

Supplemented by volunteers from other mountain rescue teams from across the continent, the PMR-led rescue team, including two past presidents of the national association, quickly set up a base at Lolo Pass. One field team immediately began climbing toward the injured climber. A BlackHawk helicopter from the Oregon National Guard's 1042nd Medical Evacuation Company then became available and leapfrogged a second team of four rescuers, with medical and evacuation gear, directly to the 9,000' elevation. That team reached the patient at about 12:15 pm. Together with an American Medical Response ("AMR") Reach-And-Treat paramedic and an Army medic from the helicopter's crew, they stabilized the patient, applied a traction splint to his injured leg, and secured him into a litter. The patient and the two medics then were hoisted by cable into the hovering helicopter, which delivered the patient safely to Legacy Emanuel Hospital at approximately 2:00 pm.

Once the patient had been evacuated, the PMR teams gathered their gear, cleaned the area, and descended the mountain on foot via the Sandy Glacier, Timberline Trail, and Top Spur Trail, reporting safely back to base by 7 pm.

The Sandy Glacier Headwall route, like all steeper headwall routes on Mt. Hood, deteriorates rapidly in quality at the end of Spring. As large, unstable rock cliffs become exposed, the route and access traverse around Yocum Ridge can become dangerously exposed to rockfall, particularly in the morning when the sun first hits the cliffs near the summit. This is not the first serious rockfall incident in this location. A month or two earlier, these climbers would have experienced better snow conditions, faster travel, better opportunities for protection, and less rockfall -- and this accident would have been much less likely to occur. June finds most of the intermediate to advanced climbs on Mt. Hood to be "out of condition," requiring climbing parties to be willing to count on a bit of luck to avoid objective hazards like the rockfall that injured the climber here.


2001- Portland Mountain Rescue
P.O. Box 5391
Portland, Oregon  97228-5391
Phone: 503.222.PMRU (7678)

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