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goatboy

Rescues in NCNP

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Two separate search-and-rescue missions in NCNP this past weekend. Wondering if anyone here was involved and would be willing to share some of the details, contributing causes, lessons learned, etc.

 

LINK

 

Thanks in advance - GB

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I was in the climbing group of 7 that was up on Sahale. I've been super busy, but I'd like to put together a report about the rescue this week. I got a bunch of photos of the helicopter rescue operation. Stay tuned.

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From this morning's NPS Morning Report:

 

North Cascades National Park (WA)

Four Climbers Rescued In Two Incidents

 

 

The park’s search and rescue team recently responded to two separate mountaineering accidents, evacuating four people from remote mountain peaks. On Friday, July 13th, after they’d successfully navigated through the remote northern Picket Range and climbed several peaks, a party of three climbers requested assistance. One of the three hiked out to report that his two partners had been hit and injured by falling snow from a steep wall above their camp in a basin below Luna Peak. Rangers evacuated the injured 29-year-old male and 29-year-old female climbers via a National Park Service-contracted helicopter from HiLine Helicopters to Marblemount, where the man was transferred to a local hospital by ambulance and the woman was released. On Saturday, July 14th, a party of seven was climbing the south side route of Sahale Peak. One member of the party inadvertently pulled out a large boulder, which struck him and then a member of the party below. Another member of the party hiked to Cascade Pass and contacted a wilderness ranger who launched a rescue response. Climbing rangers approached the two injured climbers on foot from Boston Basin and by helicopter from Marblemount. The critically injured 24-year-old woman was moved from the glacier by a National Park Service-contracted helicopter from HiLine Helicopters in a short-haul maneuver, and then transferred to an Airlift Northwest medical helicopter at a road site. She was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and was reported to have multiple fractures but was in stable condition. The 25-year-old male climber, who had minor injuries, was also flown out of the backcountry, but was released. Digital images of the Sahale Peak rescue are available for download and use at the park’s Flickr site.

[submitted by Charles Beall, Acting Superintendent]

 

 

 

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Below is my report of what happened in the accident near Luna Peak as I was the reporting party. But let me quickly say that my two friends that were hurt are both at home resting and should make full recoveries.

 

Background:

The accident happened on the morning of the 7th day of our trip (Friday, July 13th) through the northern Pickets. We were planning on getting back to the car on day 7 and were located E-SE of Luna Peak in the Access Creek Basin around 5300 ft. We were 3 miles a bushwhacking, one nasty river crossing and 11 trail miles to the Ross Lake. From there we would either get lucky and catch a boat to the 0.5 mile trail to the car (across from Ross Lake Resort), or have to hike 7 miles to the car. We choose this camping spot because it got us into the basin we wanted to head out from and there was a nice cool breeze that kept the bugs at bay (we were sleeping in the open air, no tent). Above us was a set of cliffs with trees on top, there were cornices on the nearby cliffs, but nothing above us that we could see.

 

The Event:

At 5:15 in the morning, I was awoken to the sound of something falling down from above. I looked up and saw a 5-6'x3' ball of snow coming down the slope about 100' above our sleeping platform. I awoke J and E after a few tries and then rolled out of the way, unfortunately J and E did not have enough time to move. J took a direct hit and E either was grazed or was thrown hard to the ground as her and J were in a double sleeping bag. My friends ended up about 10-15' from the tent platform on the ground. J was on the ground moaning, in obvious pain, whereas E didn't seemed too harmed and was just very concerned about J. However, the more I talked to E, the more a realized that she was a bit out of it and must have taken a shot to the head. We eventually got J up to a seated position on a sleeping pad. I got both J and E to sit down and wrap up in the sleeping bag as both were shivering heavily and obviously cold and in shock. At this time I got some water boiling to fill up a water bottle to help warm up J as he seemed to be in the worse condition.

 

At this time I started melting and filtering water as we were planning on filtering water from the valley. I also gave J and E my down bag and some extra clothes to try to help warm them up. I began to fill out a patient evaluation form for both J and E and got as much information as I could. J was complaining of severe mid back and then in the front of the ribs. E didn't complain of any pain, just acted quite confused and admitted to now knowing where we were or what day it was. I the meantime, J and I were discussing our options. I was almost certain that I would need to get help as I worried about internal injuries to J, but J still thought it may be possible to self extract. So we decided to see how well he and E could walk. J was slow, but seemed OK, but at this time, E noticed that she had a lot of pain in her lower back/hips/lower legs and could not move without severe pain. So that settled it, I would have to get help.

 

We also decided to move camp to a nearby knoll that, although not the safest place, would be safer. So I finished filling up our water containers and moved camp to the knoll and then helped J and E get to the knoll. I also made sure to mark on my topographic map our exact location. After setting up camp and making my friends as comfortable as possible, I grabbed my pack and dropped as much weight as possible and then went for help (it was now 9:00 AM). I went as fast as I could safely go and made it to Big Beaver Creek at 10:30 AM and then spend the next frustrating hour finding a way across and by 11:40 AM I was on the trail. I stopped once to fill up my water supply and managed to reach Big Beaver Creek Campground on Ross Lake by 2:45 PM. There I was lucky enough to meet 2 guys with boats who gave me a lift to the Ross Lake Resort, where I was able to call for help.

 

By 4:30 PM the helicopter had located my friends and was on the ground and by 7:00 PM, both of my friends were airlifted to Marblemount, with J being taken to the hospital via an ambulance. E had some pretty good bruises and a probable mild concussion, while J had some extensive bruising of his internal organs, but was released from the hospital 2 days later.

 

Advice/Lessons Learned:

Obviously our camp spot wasn't ideal, but even the ranger said he couldn't see where the snowball came from. So sometimes the biggest danger is the one you don't see coming. Because of that, you should always be prepared for the worse, which means having MOFA/WRFA training. I'm seriously considering limiting who climbs with me based on who has this training because it helped save my friends lives. I can't say I followed the training exactly, but the training gave me a starting point from which to start my evaluation and also a good idea of what information the rescuers would need to best help my friends.

 

Also, make sure you know where you are at all times and are capable of reading off the latitude and longitude from you maps. This may be the single most important information you can give the rangers. I gave the rangers latitude, longitude, relative location from a peak, the name of the drainage, and altitude. Ultimately this helped them find my friends much quicker as they didn't see my friends on the first pass. I found out later that E was waving an ice axe, hoping the glint would catch the helicopter's eye, but it didn't and they went over the ridge to search another area, only to come back shortly thereafter and find my friends. I remember hearing over the radio one of the guys state that where they were looking wasn't where my GPS coordinates said my friends would be and so they searched that area again and found my friends on the second pass. The ranger said that non-natural colors were the easiest to see, including oranges and reds (you can also use a mirror as long as you understand how to aim it).

 

In my initial call to the rangers, I was also asked to give dimensions of the landing area, along with local weather and winds and I threw in that there was a downdraft coming off the ridge.

 

Another pointer that I didn't really learn from this trip, but is good advice. Never wear yourself out so much that you would be useless in a rescue situation (this includes drinking/drugs). You can't predict or plan when accidents happen, so you must have the energy to react when they do.

 

Nothing will fully prepare you to see your friends get hurt and then to have to leave them to get help.

 

I thank God for being with me on my trip out to get help and for the great rescue service provided by the rangers and HiLine Helicopters. I am forever grateful that J and E made it home safely and are recovering.

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Thanks for the candid, detailed, and insightful report.

 

Great job, and kudos for saving your partners and identifying action steps for the future.

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Thanks for the candid, detailed, and insightful report.

 

Great job, and kudos for saving your partners and identifying action steps for the future.

:tup: Ditto.

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With all the bad news and fatalities lately, it's nice to hear about a successful rescue. Glad to hear all are safe and recovering, and thanks for the report. Good reminders for all of us.

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I'm really glad that both of our accidents ended in successful rescues. I think that proper training really contributed to both of these being worse than they could have been.

 

Thanks for the analysis and lessons learned, good to keep in mind while climbing.

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Thanks for the report. The Pickets do have both predictable and unpredictable hazards. I'm glad it worked out OK.

 

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After 4 trips into the Pickets by various routes with the same partner, I have always wondered about the speed and difficulty of going for help alone. Sounds like you did a good job rescuing your guys.

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