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LukeShy

Sahale Peak Rescue - July 14th 2012

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Sahale Peak Rescue - July 14, 2012

Flickr Photo Set

 

***I have removed names from the report besides myself. The two involved with the accident are J1 and J2, my climbing partner is the other person involved.***

 

Intro:

We started our climb at 5:05 am Saturday July 14th from the Cascade Pass Trailhead and quickly made it up to Cascade Pass than the Sahale Glacier Camp. After setting up our tents and arranging gear we headed for the summit of Sahale intending to have J1 and J2 climb to the Summit of Sahale, while my climbing partner and I traversed below and climbed Boston Peak. And J1 and J2 got to a safe spot below the true summit where J2 was going to set up a rope to belay J1 to the top. All went according to plan, we left them to climb, and my climbing partner and I began traversing towards Boston. We got about 50 yards when we heard the rock fall behind us. We hollered back to see if they were OK and after the second asking we got a response from J2 “I don’t know…”. ~10:30 AM

 

Accident: 10:30 AM

J1 and J2 were approximately 15 feet below the summit of Sahale on the North side. J1 and J2 had harnessed up and J2 was starting to climb up to the summit. This is where J2 grabbed a boulder on his left side which knocked loose a large boulder ~3-4 feet in diameter. This than fell on J2’s left side hitting his arm, shoulder and knee. It than proceeded to fall directly onto J1, rolling over her left side. They both hung on for dear life as the boulder and other smaller ones fell around them down to the Davenport Glacier in Horseshoe Basin along with J2’s backpack. They were not dislodged from their places so when my climbing partner and I returned to the scene they hadn’t moved at all.

 

Accident Description

Sahale_Rescue_1.jpg

circled boulder is now gone

 

Rescue: 10:40 AM – 6:00 PM

Once my climbing partner and I arrived on the scene we immediately began to ask J1 and J2 of their condition. J2 noted that J1 was in worse shape and that his knee was the only thing that was hurt. I’m glad that I had taken MOFA & WRFA courses in the past because that training came back and kept me focused on the proper steps to perform for a rescue. I than looked over J1 for life threatening injuries and asked her about her condition, what hurt, and broken. J1 couldn’t move her left arm much and she and I thought that it was dislocated. We tried to put it back in place with her help but quickly realized that it was a no go. So J1 and my climbing partner began to tend to her injuries – using my SAM splint and webbing to secure her ankle and then creating a webbing sling for her left arm. We ended up using some 1” webbing to stabilize her arm in the sling. J1 was evaluated by my climbing partner and was in OK shape besides some complaints of a “stiff” knee and laceration on the knee cap, which had already stopped bleeding after we did our initial inspections of them.

 

With J1 and J2 stable the next step was to devise a plan on how to evacuate from the summit block safely and call for help. There was no cell reception and no other teams were around at the time and I could see to the north beyond Boston Peak that there was weather moving in. My climbing partner and I discussed options as we had only one 60 m rope and a few pieces of pro. We determined that the best course was to lower J1 down and have my climbing partner on rappel, with a backup prusik, beside her as I slowly lowered her. So once we had our plan, my climbing partner set up the anchor and I attended to J1 and J2 asking how they were, if they needed water, food, and explaining what our plan of departure was. I also performed a head to toe examination (thanks to MOFA/WRFA training) of J1 and my climbing partner did the same for J2. At this point J1 noted that her neck was stiff but not too sore, probably whiplash. I kept this in mind as we headed down to monitor her state. J1 and I than discussed the lowering option and she was fine with this plan.

 

Rescue Lowering Description

Sahale_Rescue_2.jpg

Circled boulder is now gone.

 

My climbing partner had set the sling anchor and I set a 3 piece anchor for myself and we double checked each harness and system. We took the half-way point on the rope and tied it into the anchor setting up two fixed lines to use. Once J1 was secure and tied into the system my climbing partner began to rappel down beside her and helped her along as I lowered her (P1). We went down the same way we climbed up and took our time. This system worked well with her taking a step with her good leg while my climbing partner held her steady and guided both her broken and good feet. Once we finally lowered to the snow moat J1 was secured there by my climbing partner and J2 was able to rappel down the line to the moat as well.

 

From the moat we encountered another party climbing and they offered to help lending us a picket to use on the way down. Once gathered the gear and rappelled down to the moat I began to set a picket dead-man anchor to fix the rope to. My climbing partner than climbed back up cleaned the anchors and carefully down climbed the route to the moat with the rope. From there I set up the fixed line, doing one small 40 foot traverse to rocks, set a good nut and double sling tied off with a clove hitch. This protected the traverse. We than had J1 prusik into the rope and my climbing partner proceeded to help her over to the rocks. I kicked huge platform steps for her to step on with her one good leg. This process went relatively well, but was horridly slow. We knew that for us to get down to the camp quickly and safely a new method would be needed.

 

Lowering Description

Sahale_Rescue_3.jpg

 

From this point I reset the picket anchor, the snow as nice and mushy for bomber anchors, and set up the prusik for J1 to attach to. J1’s harness has the rear load point so we were able to attach the prusik to that as well as some webbing lines to lower her slowly. This slope was particularly steep with run out being cliffs almost until the end. J1 used a pair of rain pants and held her broken leg up with her good arm started to slide down the rope length with our assistance (P2). She was great the pain hardly deterred her from moving down. This proceeded for 5 pitches down the glacier until we reached a flat area.

 

[img:center]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8143/7595943344_11e398267d.jpg[/img]

lowering/assisted walking down

 

Along the way many climbing parties were ascending and asking if there was anything they could do to help. One group had a SPOT help notify beacon, which was able to connect to their phone to send out text messages. This happened around P2-P3 so they headed down to their tents to activate it. They also informed our three other climbing partners what was happening above.

 

Once to the flat spot we decided and J1 agreed to try to two-man carry her and this worked ok until, from the more violent shaking her collarbone fully broke! J1 was in a huge amount of pain, so we quickly decided to stop any more lowering as to not risk any more injury to her. My climbing partner headed down to camp to gather overnight gear supplies while I kept J1 and J2 company. I dug out a tent platform with some other climbers who helped me while we waited. Our three other climbing partners came up with a tent sleeping bags, food and supplies. We set up the tent and ate doughnut holes and this put us all in a good mood as we continued to wait.

 

We first heard the helicopter coming up the valley at round 6:00 PM and I found us and landed a short distance away. The ranger came over did a quick evaluation of J1 and J2 and said he’d be back soon. The helicopter took off and soon returned an hour later with the ranger and a rescue sled hanging 100 ft. below. He was lowered close by, came over to us and we set up the sled and placed J1 into it. Soon enough they were back in the air and flying away down to Cascade Pass TH.

 

[img:center]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8433/7595952888_737d1fb125_z.jpg[/img]

J1 and Ranger flying away

[img:center]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8145/7594495644_c51e2f500a_n.jpg[/img]

J2 walking to helicopter

 

The helicopter returned to pick up J2 and after a bit of confusion with car keys and meeting my climbing partner at the TH they were off at 8:00 PM. As we watched him fly away the slight drizzle had cleared up and a rainbow formed looking south. I think that Mother Nature approved of the successful rescue operation.

 

[img:center]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8023/7595963984_a321af3fd8.jpg[/img]

 

Final Injuries:

J1 – broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, broken left ankle, and minor cuts, scrapes, bruises

- She is recovering well from surgery to place pins in her ankle and set all other broken bones. 6 months for a full recovery

 

J2 – broken knee cap, minor cuts, scrapes, bruises

 

Self-Evaluation/Lessons Learned:

I think there were some finer points that I missed that could have resulted in missed injury treatment. I became too focused on the goal of getting them to camp that I didn’t follow up on things as we went along. I was checking for feeling in J1’s broken foot early on, which I stopped doing. I should have been more diligent on investigating if she was concuss and didn’t ask the basic questions (who/what/when/where) repeatedly as we descended. J2 was displaying classic signs of wanting to help J1 but not tending to his own injuries and ignoring basic survival skills like not wearing many layers while waiting for the Helicopter. I should have been more proactive in getting him clothes and warm gear. I’m glad that the ranger told him “you look hypothermic, you need to get into the tent!” which he thankfully followed his command.

 

Another thing that resulted in more injury was continuing to move J1 further than was really needed. I was blinded by the thought of bad weather and ‘camp safety’ so we were driven to get to camp. I think that after P2 there was sufficient shelter and a nice flat spot for camp and close helicopter landing. Not moving unless absolutely necessary was violated and it added extra pain and injury to J1 situation.

 

Having a SPOT really did quicken up this rescue and is something that I’m really thinking about getting. When every second counts for critical injuries, getting that call to help as soon as possible could save someone’s life.

 

 

I’m truly grateful that both of these amazingly strong people survived the whole ordeal and are now on their way to make a full recovery. They both handled the situation quite well and were calm and collected the whole time. A huge thanks to my climbing partner and all he did in he rescue, couldn't have done it with out you! Thanks to my three other climbing partners too, you did great. A huge thanks to the rangers and Hi Line Helicopters - thanks for coming to help so quickly. Finally thanks to everyone else who contributed to helping with this rescue.

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Wow, sorry for the injury filled trip; but thanks the write up. Sounds like you did a great job taking care of everything. Best wishes to the injured. Appreciate the details and evaluation.

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So, was it the "Spot" beacon that contacted EMS directly, and brought the helicopter, or was there other contact with the rangers or something. I ask because I have long been curious about the Spot, and I have been contemplating getting one.

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Thanks for sharing the storyand for helping when you did. Glad everyone is OK.

 

So, was it the "Spot" beacon that contacted EMS directly, and brought the helicopter, or was there other contact with the rangers or something. I ask because I have long been curious about the Spot, and I have been contemplating getting one.

 

From above,

One group had a SPOT help notify beacon, which was able to connect to their phone to send out text messages.

 

This is confusing, because SPOT is a one-way communication tool (HELP or OK + GPS coordinates) and doesn't do texting, as far as I know. After talking with rescue leaders when I was researching the 9-1-1 NWMJ article I wrote a couple of years ago, seeing accounts of more recent accidents, and my own experience, it seems clear that two-way communication is critical. Rescuers can assess what help is needed and when. They can also provide guidance relating to medical treatments in the field, weather conditions, proximity of ground teams, etc. One way communication doesn't allow any of that.

 

Above treeline, a satellite phone is probably the most useful communication device in an emergency. They are expensive to buy, but it doesn't cost that much to rent them. If you split the cost among four team members you might pay $15 each. That's pretty cheap insurance, plus you can call your SO to tell her you're going to be a day late, change your Ross Lake taxi pickup, or tell your agent to update your blog so Rock and Ice can post an instant update on your latest send. Or you can leave it off until the shit hits the fan.

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He may be using the name SPOT interchangeably with some other new brands that pair with phones to create satellite uplink connections. The Delorme InReach is one such example. A lot has changed since that NWMJ article, which was cutting edge at the time it came out...

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This is confusing, because SPOT is a one-way communication tool (HELP or OK + GPS coordinates) and doesn't do texting, as far as I know.  After talking with rescue leaders when I was researching the 9-1-1 NWMJ article I wrote a couple of years ago, seeing accounts of more recent accidents, and my own experience, it seems clear that two-way communication is critical.  

 

There's no doubt that 2-way communication is critical, but saying one should carry a sat phone on a backcountry climbing trip is unrealistic.  They're heavy, bulky and expensive - no one is going to pack one for the average weekend trip.

 

I bought a Spot last year after hiking out 6 miles on a broken ankle.  I recall thinking after taking a grounder that had I landed 2 feet to the right I would have had a compound fracture.  A Spot in that case could have made quite a difference.  Luckily for me it was merely a bad sprain and fractured tibia / talus and I was able to walk out on my own power.

 

There's no way I'll ever pack rope, rack & camping gear and add a sat phone to the pile - but a Spot weighs as much as a powerbar so it goes everywhere with me.  

 

PS... If you havn't already, read Gadd's post on the Spot:

http://willgadd.com/climbing-spray-death-life/ 

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Thanks for sharing your experience on Sahale Peak, Luke.

 

To add my opinion to this SPOT discussion, if I were looking to bring one device into the backcountry for emergency use only, I would go with the McMurdo Fastfind PLB, smaller and lighter than SPOT, sends out a GPS fix to the SARSAT system which is more reliable than the Globalstar system that SPOT uses (read, possible delay). The PLB requires no annual fee to use, just pay purchase price and done for life. Also, the PLB's ping out a signal on 121.5mhz, which I can tell you from first hand experience assists aircrews in conducting the fine pinpointing of your location. If I wanted my spouse or friends to be able to track my progress, send out 'miss you, I'm fine' messages every so often, and have an adequet way to reach out to SAR services, and willing to pay a monthly/annual fee, the SPOT would be ideal. Of course my satellite phone is the ideal machine, being the new motorola 9575, lighter and smaller than previous models. It utilizes the very reliable Iridium Network, is able to communicate via two way voice (phone), two way texting, and programmable SOS button is the ultimate way to explain to SAR services your predicament and exactly what aid/supplies you need. Downside is initial cost of unit and satphone minutes are not cheap. Just some food for though and what I've experienced through the years.

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Thanks for sharing your experience on Sahale Peak, Luke.

 

To add my opinion to this SPOT discussion, if I were looking to bring one device into the backcountry for emergency use only, I would go with the McMurdo Fastfind PLB, smaller and lighter than SPOT, sends out a GPS fix to the SARSAT system which is more reliable than the Globalstar system that SPOT uses (read, possible delay). The PLB requires no annual fee to use, just pay purchase price and done for life. Also, the PLB's ping out a signal on 121.5mhz, which I can tell you from first hand experience assists aircrews in conducting the fine pinpointing of your location. If I wanted my spouse or friends to be able to track my progress, send out 'miss you, I'm fine' messages every so often, and have an adequet way to reach out to SAR services, and willing to pay a monthly/annual fee, the SPOT would be ideal. Of course my satellite phone is the ideal machine, being the new motorola 9575, lighter and smaller than previous models. It utilizes the very reliable Iridium Network, is able to communicate via two way voice (phone), two way texting, and programmable SOS button is the ultimate way to explain to SAR services your predicament and exactly what aid/supplies you need. Downside is initial cost of unit and satphone minutes are not cheap. Just some food for though and what I've experienced through the years.

 

+1, if you want an emergency beacon device, buy a real one not a glorified text message machine. The mcmurdo is crazy light and will actually work when you need it and doesn't depend on a private call center in Texas that will call puget sound energy when they're trying to figure out how to help you (true story)

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I doubt a carry would break a collarbone further. It was probably already fully broken and it just became displaced.

 

Please tell this individual to keep and eye on that collarbone. If they become too displaced it can cause problems because it will heal in the displaced position and some doctors don't think it matters. Climbers typically have muscles that are out of balance (stronger pull than push) which causes problems that some doctors don't see.

 

I now have a Titanium plate with 8 screws because mine was displaced by 2cm.

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Good questions about the "spot" beacon I talked about. I'm not aware of what the actual brand name/model it was because it wasn't owned by anyone in my group. There were some other climbers who offered to send out the message on his literally brand new beacon that would connect via Bluetooth to his phone. Those are the only details of the device I know because he had his phone in camp and I stayed up with the injured.

 

I'm speculating that its probably this model or something similar:

SPOT connect satellite communicator

or this one too

Delorme Inreach 2 way satellite communicator for Apple iOS and Android

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I doubt a carry would break a collarbone further. It was probably already fully broken and it just became displaced.
You're probably right that it didn't break, but just shifted. I'm no doctor so I'll take your word on that one :)

 

Thanks for the advice I will be sure to forward it on so she's getting the proper treatment.

 

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Great job holding it together on the rescue. You were lucky that you were on a trade route.

 

your helicopter arrived pretty quickly so whatever was used worked well in that location. It is not impossible that they merely ran into a ranger since that is a trade route and there are many rangers there notorious for checking permits. The rangers have the ability to radio or call back to HQ pretty easily.

 

+1 for the McMurdo vs the SPOT. SPOT is more for fun uses, like bicycling the pacific coast and sending cute messages with location points to your blog daily. The McMurdo is a dedicated unit that has no subscription fee, and takes no space in your gear. It's the best, most cost effective thing out there at the moment. Next up in quality is a sat phone, but that is a big jump in price.

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Thanks for posting so honestly Luke. Very commendable. Too bad things went so far south, but I'm happy that everyone will recover fully. Way to keep your head about you! Must have been difficult.

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