PMR Rescues 2 Climbers on Mt Hood's Yocum Ridge
Sunday, April 11, 2004 (Updated
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
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
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
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'
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.