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timmy_t

[TR] Liberty Bell - Helicopter rescue 8/13/2011

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Trip: Liberty Bell - Helicopter rescue

 

Date: 8/13/2011

 

Trip Report:

Since I know you guys are drawn to the macabre, I thought I'd share some photos of a helicopter evacuation that happened in the gully between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower this past weekend. I should mention that this is a very PG-13 rated trip report: no blood, sex, or foul language; just a broken leg... sorry.

 

My girlfriend and I got a late start out of Mount Vernon and decided to head up Liberty Bell for an afternoon climb.

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We passed this mountain goat resting in the shade (and panting heavily) at the base of the gully.

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A few minutes later we came across a Kiwi who was laying in the middle of the gully between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower, maybe 200 feet below the notch. Apparently he had climbed Liberty Bell and had a freak accident on the hike down: his right foot twisted, resulting in what he believed was a spiral fracture of both the tibia and fibula below his calf. He was in good spirits, all things considered, and was hanging out with two climbers who had heard him scream when they were on the first pitch of the Beckey route. He had sent his partner down for help (after the other group activated their SPOT beacon), and they were awaiting a helicopter evacuation.

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My girlfriend was concerned. We had seen two bloodied/bandaged climbers at the trailhead, and a motorcyclist laying on the road (being attended to by paramedics) in Marblemount, and this was the last straw. We bailed on the climb and decided to wait with the Kiwi to assist with the evacuation, if needed. Plus it sounded fun to watch.

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After a couple of hours we heard the helicopter (a SAR blackhawk? from Whidbey Island NAS), then saw it circling overhead looking for us.

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Getting closer...

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After locating us the crew did about 15 flybys to assess the situation. We found out later that they were burning fuel (to make the hover easier) while waiting for the ground SAR people to arrive.

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Once the two ground SAR people showed up the helicopter lowered a guy into the gully. They asked the rest of us to get against the wall of Concord.

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The rotorwash was unbelievable, as was the noise. It felt like being inside a sandblaster, and we had to hold on to the rock to avoid being blown over. They resplinted the leg, slipped the Kiwi into a vest, clipped in...

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And headed up...

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Up...

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Up...

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And away! Sorry for the redundancy in the photos but it was pretty cool to watch.

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Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space

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We still had to hike out. Parting shot of Concord Tower:

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Finally, in case you're wondering how SAR is so quick, here's one answer: motorized transportation to the start of the climber's trail.

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I'm guessing the "SAR" personnel were from Aero Methow, out of Twisp. Cool! (except for the poor dude who broke his leg).

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Wow, thanks for the write up and pictures. I was heading out on the trail after completing a route on NEWS when the heli came shooting over the ridge and started circling, then ran into the SAR ground unit. Left me wondering what was going on. Glad everyone made it out OK for the most part.

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We were in hiking out from S Early Winter Spire, and talked to some of the SAR personnel hiking in. I asked them what group they were with and they said Okanagon Search and Rescue.

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Nice TR, thanks.

 

I wonder who the "two bloodied/bandaged climbers at the trailhead" were. We did SW Rib of South Early Winters Spire that day, and heard from another party that a team starting up the route after us had a nasty fall on the first pitch. We heard that the leader took a ground fall and was banged and scraped up but able to walk away from it. I wonder if those were the people you saw.

 

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A few minutes later we came across a Kiwi

 

What is a Kiwi?

 

Someone that is from New Zealand is called a Kiwi. Like Sir Edmund Hillary and Rob Hall to name a couple.

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Really??

You have a few options of what a Kiwi could be- either a bird, fruit, or person from New Zealand. My guess is that, since the subject is actually in the photos, they are talking about somebody from NZ.

 

Anyways, great photos! What type of camera are you using?

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Nice TR, thanks.

 

I wonder who the "two bloodied/bandaged climbers at the trailhead" were. We did SW Rib of South Early Winters Spire that day, and heard from another party that a team starting up the route after us had a nasty fall on the first pitch. We heard that the leader took a ground fall and was banged and scraped up but able to walk away from it. I wonder if those were the people you saw.

 

Not sure, we didn't ask. We left the trailhead @2pm and they were sitting on the back gate of their car chatting and smiling. There was a man and a woman, and she looked to be in worse shape with much of one of her legs bandaged, but I have no idea what happened or who they were.

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We were in hiking out from S Early Winter Spire, and talked to some of the SAR personnel hiking in. I asked them what group they were with and they said Okanagon Search and Rescue.

 

The 2 individuals who actually made it to the accident site were from Winthrop. There were a few more who had headed up the trail from somewhere else but they turned around a little bit past the start of the climbers' trail because the helicopter had already left, and I didn't talk to them.

 

As the helicopter was leaving, we heard the crew talk to somebody at the trailhead and tell them that the 2 SAR personnel were "sticking around to help the victim's friends down." Which is funny because (1) none of us knew the guy, and (2) well, thanks for the help on the hike down? SAR guy laughed, said he would help us hike down now.

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We were up there scouting for our Sunday climb of Liberty Bell and got some pictures from the bottom of the gulley. I will try to post some when I get a chance to get them off of my camera.

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Anyways, great photos! What type of camera are you using?

 

Thanks. I used a Nikon D3100, although the lens is more important (Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S). Knowing how to use it is the main thing though.

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Tim

Great pictures I knew there was a reason I was happy to see you.

They flew me to Omak and operated. I have plates from knee to ankle and 15 screws. There was multiple breaks to tib and fib.

I will pm you my email address then send you the xray shots to add to the story.

Having the two of plus Todd and His girl friend made the 6 plus hours much more bearable so thanks again.

Jason (kiwi)

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Not sure, we didn't ask. We left the trailhead @2pm and they were sitting on the back gate of their car chatting and smiling. There was a man and a woman, and she looked to be in worse shape with much of one of her legs bandaged, but I have no idea what happened or who they were.

 

These two are friends of mine - got a debrief from them on Sunday night.

 

He pulled a microwave sized block off the very beginning of the first pitch (the first real step of 5th class after the 2nd class ledge). Knocked him down slope about 40'. He hadn't put in any protection yet on the pitch (I would be surprised if most do) and the fall came directly onto the belayer. She caught the fall, but the force pulled her off the ledge and tight against the anchor (a 0 - yellow - C3, placed in an idle moment of, "Well, I've climbed this before and I know it's super mellow, but what the hell, I'll put something in."). The C3 held the fall (though is a little worse for wear for the experience).

 

He banged up his shoulder and wrist and has a set of scrapes on his forehead that bear a remarkable likeness to cam lobes (he thinks his #3 came around and hit him in the head for good measure during the fall). She tore up her leg a bit, but mostly looked worse than it was. Both are in good spirits and were making plans to come back and climb other routes in the area while walking out, so I don't think the incident is likely to have long-lasting effects on either of them.

 

Lessons learned (?): wearing a helmet is a good idea (a thought that occurred to my friend as he went tumbling down the face while wearing his), WA Pass is not immune to choss, and putting in a belay anchor in easy, but exposed, terrain is a good call.

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These two are friends of mine - got a debrief from them on Sunday night.

 

He pulled a microwave sized block off the very beginning of the first pitch (the first real step of 5th class after the 2nd class ledge). Knocked him down slope about 40'. He hadn't put in any protection yet on the pitch (I would be surprised if most do) and the fall came directly onto the belayer. She caught the fall, but the force pulled her off the ledge and tight against the anchor (a 0 - yellow - C3, placed in an idle moment of, "Well, I've climbed this before and I know it's super mellow, but what the hell, I'll put something in."). The C3 held the fall (though is a little worse for wear for the experience).

 

He banged up his shoulder and wrist and has a set of scrapes on his forehead that bear a remarkable likeness to cam lobes (he thinks his #3 came around and hit him in the head for good measure during the fall). She tore up her leg a bit, but mostly looked worse than it was. Both are in good spirits and were making plans to come back and climb other routes in the area while walking out, so I don't think the incident is likely to have long-lasting effects on either of them.

 

holy shit man.

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A short video of the NAS guy rappelling from the helicopter. Not sure who took it, but Jason had it up on his FB page.

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(a SAR blackhawk? from Whidbey Island NAS)

 

The helo in question was a Navy SH-60 Seahawk, the Navy version of the Blackhawk

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Pete is correct. Although officially part of Okanogan County search and rescue, most of the mountain rescue personnel are Paramedics and EMTs from Aero Methow Rescue Service. (We were all very pleased the NAS Whidbey helo was able to make the pick...otherwise it was looking like a long night for everyone)

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