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Mt Washington - Dislodged Rock - East Side

July 01, 2005

Hurt climber rescued from mountain
Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Hillsboro woman was in serious condition Saturday after falling while climbing Mount Washington on Friday afternoon.

Rescuers plucked the climber off the mountain about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, 17 hours after her husband used a cell phone to call for help. Hospital records identify her as Meikim Joanne Ding.

The couple had just reached the summit of Mount Washington's northern face when Ding lost her footing and tumbled about 15 feet, according to the Linn County Sheriff's Office. She broke her femur and may have suffered a concussion in the fall.

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Oregon Army National Guard's 1042nd Medical Company in Salem picked up a crew of rescue climbers from the U.S. Forest Service, Camp Sherman Hasty Team, Deschutes County Sheriff's Posse, Linn County Sheriff's Mounted Posse and Linn County Search and Rescue Post.

Foggy skies and the injured woman's location near a prominent peak stymied efforts to land the helicopter Friday night or hoist her to safety, but rescue teams were dropped in to stabilize Ding overnight.

Just before dawn, they carried Ding to a more accessible spot, and she was airlifted off the mountain and flown to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

Michele Foy, a nursing supervisor at the hospital, said Saturday afternoon that Ding remained in serious condition.

The following information was posted on Cascade Climbers:

After being struck by a large rock and falling, my wife was picked off of Mt Washington on Fri/Sat by some hardworking rescue teams. In case anyone involved in the rescue posts here, I just wanted to give a HUGE!!! thanks to everyone for working through the night to get her out of a nasty spot and down to where the helicopter could pick her up.

As for her condition, she suffered a pretty bad concussion, a smashed finger, and plenty of cuts, scrapes, and bruises. But the good news is that she's fully alert and is starting to move around a bit with the help of a walker. All in all, we couldn't hope for any better news and she might be able to get out of the hospital in a few days!

---

We were on the North Ridge - hadn't climbed it before and we got off route up at the summit pinnacle. Instead of directly climbing north ridge, we traversed around it (climbers left) onto the east face. I could see a gully on the east face that looked climbable so we headed for that.

The gully looked to be 4th class with some nasty exposure, so my wife belayed from below, and off to the side. I went up about 20 feet and commented that there was no decent rock for placing pro. I finally settled on a large boulder (about the size of a person) that looked somewhat stable relative to everything else. I threw a sling around it and gave just a little tug on it and the whole thing just took off down the slope. It took a bad bounce and my wife couldn't get out of the way. She was struck on the shoulder and side of the head (helmet saved her life!). She fell off the ledge she was on and landed about 15 feet below on another ledge.

If she hadn't landed on the ledge that she did (about 3 feet wide), there is no doubt we both would have been dragged right off the mountain (below us was 45 degree snow). She had setup a belay anchor but the anchor wasn't meant to take a load from that direction and didn't help at all to stop the fall.

In short, our biggest mistake was simply not being able to properly evaluate the rockfall hazard. In our traverse around the pinnacle, we both noted that the rock was awfully crumbly. But we kept pushing on, hoping the rocks up the gully might be a little better.

Just some notes on the rescue: The fall happened around 2:30PM. I descended the north ridge until I got cellphone service (about at the point where the climbers trail meets teh ridge) and called 911 around 3:30PM. The rescue teams were up to our position by 8:00PM - FAST! Unfortunately, visibility got too bad to get a helicoptor to pick her up at night but the SAR folks stayed with us all night and did a spectacular job getting her back up to the ridge and then down the west face (with some pretty effective human anchors). The helicoptor managed to pick her off around 7:30AM (17 hours after the fall). The fast response of the initial SAR team getting up to us and helping to keep her warm during that time helped save her life and get her off the mountain as fast as possible.

Thanks again to all the folks involved in the rescue! The best news is that she's getting out of the hospital today and going home!

---

I was leading, she was belaying from below - there was nothing special about our setup. I did give the boulder a wiggle before I slung it and it seemed OK - it wasn't until it was slung and gave it a slightly more firm pull that it gave loose.

In retrospect, the best thing we could have done was turn back and try another route after noticing the poor quality of the rock on the east face.

But, assuming we were determined to climb where we did - the second thing we should have done is found a better spot for her to belay from. She was off to the side from where we expected any rockfall but, obviously, not far enough.

Finally, given the big exposure on the east face, we definitely should have set up a bomber anchor for the belayer. Something that would have kept her from falling after getting hit. The only anchor we had on belay was a sling around a horn which was far from bomber.

Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit report

MISSION REPORT 05-03: Injured Climber, Mt. Washington, Linn County Member hours: 95

At about 1530 on Friday, July 1st, a 24 year old Hillsboro woman was belaying her husband on the east side of the North Ridge (below the notch, in the vicinity of the Gendarmes – yes, they were ‘off route’). He was about 15 feet above her when he threw a runner over a rock horn for protection and pulled out the rock. The rock flew directly at the belayer who attempted to protect herself with an upraised hand/arm. The rock struck her and she (apparently not anchored in) fell off the east side and landed in a moat. [If she had bounced out of the moat or struck the steep snow patch, it is very likely she would have “taken the big one” and pulled her husband off too.] Her husband was able to work his way down to her and called for help on his cellphone. It is unknown which PSAP received his call, but most likely Albany since Linn County took to lead on this mission.

Camp Sherman Hasty team was activated along with Deschutes County SAR. Air Life airlifted at least one team (and perhaps more) to a LZ in the meadows below the west bowl. CMRU was activated 2 ½ hours later and was told a helicopter (from the National Guard) was not available. Seven members of the Unit responded to the staging area at Ray Benson Sno Park. As we were leaving the valley, the “unavailable” helicopter was making radio contact with “SAR Base.” While we drove toward the staging area, Deschutes and Camp Sherman teams and 1042nd flight medics accessed, assessed and packaged the patient. She was not in a position where she could be hoisted directly so a raising system was rigged to bring the SKED to the ridgetop.

As the sun went down, fog began to form around (just) the mountain. When CMRU arrived at the staging area, the patient had been raised into position for a helo pickup, however the fog was blowing in and out of the pickup point. The helicopter lifted from SAR base about 2230 and tried for the next half hour to gain access to the ridgetop pickup site; but to no avail. There just wasn’t a long enough clear period to allow a safe hover/hoist operation and at approximately 2300 the helo departed for Salem (leaving their medic(s) on the mountain with the SAR teams). In the meantime, Linn County’s SAR Explorers (although I’m not sure they are still an Explorer Post but I don’t know what they are officially called) and mounted Posse hit the trail from the Big Lake Youth Camp to the PCT and climber’s trail(s). CMRU remained “available” in the staging area until about midnight when we retired to the lodge at Hoodoo for some sleep – subject to immediate recall if necessary.

Since a pickup of the subject was not going to happen this night, the teams on the mountain prepared to lower the SKED down the west bowl. They had about 800’ of line on scene (to do a 1600’ lower). The lower commenced around midnight and by approximately 0200 they were at the bottom of the scree slope. When the helo departed, it was understood that it would return to do the pickup as soon as the patient was in “clear air.” The team reported they were ready for the pickup, but were advised it would be 1 ½ - 2 hours before the helo would be on scene – and Air Life would not fly until after sunrise (almost three hours away). The Linn County SAR folks were within about ½ mile of the patient around 0300 and continued toward the bottom of the scree field from the “ridge climbers trail.” The fog was now spreading to the bottom of the scree. The helo arrived on scene before sunrise (0525) and was “on top” of the clouds at 7800’ looking for a way to get down through. After about 45 minutes, it departed to Redmond to refuel and let the fog dissipate (as the sun warmed the air).

CMRU was called around 0530 and told to prepare for a wheeled evacuation (of either patient or gear). We reported to SAR Base around 0615, were briefed, and departed for the trailhead at the Big Lake Youth Camp. As we readied our gear, the helo returned and was able to find a clear opening to approach the pickup point at the bottom of the West Bowl’s scree field. (After spending much more time than we should have) CMRU continued toward the PCT and Climber’s Trail junction as the helo proceeded to do the hover/hoist operation. Upon arrival at the climbers trail, we met three women with pack horses (including Anne Gredigan’s sister, Sue) who had spent the night there in anticipation of carrying out gear. Teams from the mountain (Camp Sherman, Deschutes, and Linn Co. SAR) arrived shortly before 0800 and we were all out of the field by 0900. The patient was flown to St. Charles in Bend for treatment of her injuries.

PARTICIPANTS: L. Clunes, D. Myers, N. Vitaglilano, J. Killian, T. Shechter, M. Crawford, J. Linn, B. Freund

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