Monday, November 25, 2013

Mountain Rescue assists with double Search and Rescue

This incident summary from last week presents another excellent opportunity to recognize and thank the important contribution of volunteers in our Search and Rescue efforts. Over the past year (Fiscal Year 2013), Mountain Rescue units contributed more than a thousand hours of volunteer time at Mount Rainier. The previous year -- a year with an exceptionally high number of such events -- the number was almost twice that. I've said this many times, but it applies even more vitally when lives are at risk: there is no way we could serve our visitors or the natural and cultural resources we protect as well as we do, without the help of volunteers. Thank you, Mountain Rescue!

November 21-22, 2013

The rescue of an injured skier in the Panoramic Point area above Paradise overnight was made more complex when word came to rangers that a snowboarder was reported lost in the same area. At 3 pm, word was received that a 36 year old skier from Packwood, WA, had fallen down a 200 ft. icefield and had severely broken his knee. By the time rangers were able to reach and assess the subject, waning daylight precluded the safe use of a helicopter as a means of extricating the 36 year old skier. As Ranger staff began setting up a technical raising of the skier, it became apparent that to conduct this operation safely, additional outside resources would be needed. Six members of Tacoma Mountain Rescue, and six members of Olympic Mountain Rescue, all trained volunteers, responded from various areas around Puget Sound, to help conduct the rescue. In the meantime, a tent and sleeping bags were sent up to the site to protect the skier from the elements. Although skies were clear and calm overnight, temperatures were in the 20’s throughout the ordeal. The laborious task of carefully raising the subject, and sledding him down to Paradise under darkness took most of the night.

In the meantime, at approx. 9 pm while the rescue was underway, the park received a report that a 36 year old solo snowboarder from Edmonds, WA was lost. He had texted his girlfriend on his cellphone to report that he was snowboarding in the Pebble Creek area above Paradise, was trying to make his way back to the parking lot, but because of darkness did not know his way back. This area is on a ridge with steep icefields and gullies along the way. The stretch of freezing weather that had occurred created a hard, slippery ice crust throughout the area, and a slip or fall could be deadly. Attempts to reach snowboarder by phone after the initial text message were unsuccessful. The Incident Commander of the skier rescue, Park Ranger Kevin Ross, re-directed several of the rescue volunteers to begin a hasty search in the area of Pebble Creek. At approx. 1220 am, searchers heard a voice responding to their calling out of the subject’s name. The snowboarder was located in cold, but good condition near Pebble Creek. He was safely walked out to Paradise, and did not suffer any injuries. All parties were safely taken off the mountain between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning. The skier was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Puyallup, WA.

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