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Missing cross-country skier lost north of Mt. Bachelor, what happened?

Searchers Find Stuck Motorists, Lost Skier
Busy Weekend for Deschutes County Sheriff's SAR
By Barney Lerten, KTVZ.COM
March 13, 2011

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue crews had a busy weekend, rescuing three motorists stuck in the snow west of Sisters and a lost cross-country skier west of Mount Bachelor.

SAR and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched around 6:30 p.m. to a report of three people stranded when their small pickup got stuck in the snow on a Forest Service road west of Sisters, said Deputy Rhett Hemphill.

They were identified as Mathew Bruce Edson, 28, of Beaverton, 2-year-old Brady Edson and Phillip Alberds, 28, of Portland.

Hemphill said Mathew Edson was driving on Forest Service Road 1510 when he got stuck in a snow bank/ Five SAR members responded and found the three around 90 minutes later, taking them back to Sisters.

Around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, deputies, SAR members and Forest Service law enforcement were dispatched to a report of a lost cross-country skier, last seen near the Crater Ditch ski trail west of Moon Mountain, Hemphill said.

About 20 searchers responded to look for Patrick Creedican, 59, of Bend, by snowmobile and cross-country skis.

Creedican (ODOT’s Bend district manager) had skied to the end of the Crater Ditch trail and was starting to return to the Nordic Center at Mount Bachelor when he got turned around and ended up going down the Soda Creek drainage, eventually coming out near Sparks Lake.

Once in that area, Creedican was able to use his phone and tell searchers of his location.

Around 9:30 p.m., a snowmobile team found Creedican and transported him back to Mount Bachelor, cold and hungry but otherwise unhurt, Hemphill said.


What can be learned from these interesting incidents?
We have been unable to talk to the stranded motorists. We remain amazed that folks in Central Oregon continue to get stuck in the snow on remote forest roads. It is fortunate that they mostly stay with their rigs rather than trying to hike out for help only to become lost and die of hypothermia. Be Prepared to be stranded on backcountry roads in Oregon.

The lost cross country skier, Pat Credican, is an old friend of mine, so we can look for detailed lessons to be learned from his experience on skinny skis. Pat has solo climbed the "Three Sisters Marathon plus two" in 24 hours. He attended my first Basic Mountaineering class at COCC, almost two decades ago.

This is not a 'could-a, would-a, should-a exercise, but a traditional effort to help folks learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others.


What happened to my good friend Pat Creedican?
I talked to Pat for quite a while on the telephone today, Monday. Here is what happened on Sunday.

Pat set out from Mt. Bachelor with his wife and two friends from church. Wife and one friend returned to the the Nordic Center from the top of the first big up-hill on the way through Big Meadow and up to the base of Brokentop. Pat and the second friend met a solo skier and they all turned back near Brokentop. The weather provide continuous light snow and very low visibility the entire day. Friend and new friend decided to return by a steep route and Pat preferred the mellow slopes.

They agreed to communicate by cell phone text messages, although this was a new technique for the two. Pat felt it was safer to communicate by text message rather than by voice because, in theory, text messages can get through when voice will not. This may have been the first problem because Pat's last text message with his position and intention was sent but not confirmed as received.

A second problem was that his GPS receiver was a wrist sized runners model that did not have a background map, only a tiny track line showing where he had been (and the time, speed, distance and altitude gained of course). He was not on the tiny line in the window of the wrist GPS and he could not tell how far the line was away from where he was. The runners GPS did provide his general latitude and longitude Coordinants but he was unable to relate them to his big map with basic contours for the entire Three Sisters Wilderness.

Pat started skiing down hill, heading South toward Cascade Lakes Highway. Due to the poor visibility, he found himself in a drainage rather the mellow slopes he sought. He watched his compass in surprise as the drainage seemed to be heading west instead of south. He found himself in trees with heavy powder snow piled in mountains between the deep welled trees. About this time his ski bindings froze solid. He broke a ski pole trying to pry the binding. He was unable to climb up hill to head south. He did not have skins for his skis, so he improvised with tree branches tied with parachute cord on the bottoms of the skis. He became exhausted and drenched with sweat (at about 20 degrees) trying to head up the side of the drainage, south toward the highway.

Pat sat down in the powder snow, (he did not have a six ounce winter insulating pad), finished the last of his three liters of water and Gatorade, ate some energy bars and studied his map. He found from the map that he was probably in the drainage of Soda Creek that eventually turned south into Sparks Lake. A steep 1,000 foot climb and drop in powder snow lay between his location and Cascades Lakes Highway. Judging from the map, his only course was to follow the Creek west until it joined the Highway at Sparks Lake.

Pat says it this way:
"Bob, I just thought of a bright spot to this venture. That is that I had a backup plan and it worked."
At the start of the trip I gave a compass to my ski buddy and told her if all else fails and you get lost, go due south and you will hit the highway and likely be near Mt. Bachelor. When I got down in the hole and wasn’t sure where I was I took a bearing on due south and found a 1000’ ridge in the way that I would have to go straight over. It took awhile for reality to set in – that if I had to go straight up the side of the ridge, it must be running east-west, not the north-south of the ridgelines around Todd Lake , which was the drainage I thought I should have been in. With that clue I looked more closely at the map and found the east-west ridge and creek and realized it was Soda Creek. Then it was just a matter of skiing along the creek to the highway."

Pat did follow the Creek west until it spilled into Sparks Lake. Unfortunately, he was on the steep side of the big creek on unconsolidated snow that avalanched into deep fast running water. He had only one ski pole. As the hours past, he was able to get water with a single bottle tied to his ski pole. (He had lost two bottles in the creek.) Finally, he found a place he could cross the creek without the risk of getting wet and swept down into a tunnel under the snow, and the skiing was easier. He had a strong headlamp (and a backup, too) and finally found Cascades Lakes Highway, covered with snow but with a solid snowmobile track.

He turned on his cell phone. Just then, at about 9 pm, his cell phone rang! It was a call from his friends and family who were with the Deschutes County Sherriff's SAR team back at Mt. Bachelor. Pat spoke directly with the SAR Incident Commander, indicating he was OK, just tired and very cold. He had shut off his cell phone hours before when his tower reception failed as he descended further into the Soda Creek  drainage, and put it in an inside vest pocket to keep it safe. (This also kept his cell phone battery warm, although he had not thought of that imperative).

He was asked by SAR to call 911, so that his location could by found by triangulation of cell tower pings. He received a call back from SAR confirming his location, on the highway at Sparks Lake. He was asked to call back every ten minutes as the rescue progressed. He was picked up by snowmobile and whisked back to his family and rig at Mt. Bachelor.

He was pretty cold. He had good light poly and pile layers, but not an overnight weight puffy coat. He might have been in a pickle if he had to stop using his major muscles to create heat. He is thankful for his last moment decision to put his rain jacket and pants into his pack (along with his two or three light layers to adjust and avoid sweat wetness as he exercised). He had no provision for shelter (but he did not plan to be lost overnight ;-)).

Pat Credican sent me the following email message:
"Bob, not a bad write up. Thanks for being merciful. Two corrections – I started out with my wife Carolyn and two family friends, not my daughter. Then wife and friend returned and I and the other friend continued.

The other is that the “cold and hungry” reported in the paper was made up out of thin air by the reporter. I had plenty of clothes on – trying to keep a balance between overheating and sweating and staying dry from the precipitation. I had two more backup, warm dry shirts still in my pack. I had plenty of food too and was adequately hydrated due to being able to get water from the creek.

I keep analyzing where I went wrong and have mostly concluded that I had good enough instruments and map, but “assumed” I could remember the route by looking at the terrain. I had taken the route the month before on a wonderful ski with my son, though at that time it was hard crust whereas this week it was fairly deep powder. I believe different conditions also altered my perception of the landscape. I think if I had taken a good bearing and followed my compass more closely in the beginning, I would have been just fine, but instead, I was in a hurry and assumed that I could just go by what looks and “feels” right. That is usually how I get turned around and it almost always happens on a low visibility or cloudy day. Obviously I have always managed to “find” myself. Probably a novice outdoorsman would have been more careful and relied more on their instruments and thereby stayed out of trouble.

I like to think this was a fairly minor deviation for most people that spend much time in remote areas hiking or hunting. What made it noteworthy, and more embarrassing, was that other folks were waiting for me at the other end and we lost communication and they made the responsible choice to call search and rescue. I think they did the right thing by not waiting all night.

Keep up the good work, Bob.
Climb On!"


Here is our visualization of Pat's possible track

We used My TOPO's Terrain Navigator Pro software and traced where we think Pat got caught in the Soda Creek drainage, was unable to climb up hill in the deep un-consolidated snow on a 20 degree day and decided to continue down Soda Creek to Cascade Lakes Highway at Sparks Lake:


Additional important information:
Cell phone providers have been increasing tower coverage, year by year. Update your phone and then check your favorite recreation areas for current coverage.
Much of the high desert recreation areas and the Three Sisters Wilderness are covered by Verizon CDMA cell phone towers. Other providers will tell the customer that they have the same coverage, (due to reciprocal agreements), but my understanding is that cell phones of all other companies, all using GSM technology, can not "see" or ping CDMA towers. Check this yourself under "clear skies".

Voice communication is much better than texting: You have positive interaction in the communication. Many people do not text, some have turned off the text function in their cell phones.

However, hunters, climbers and others who adventure into the backcountry, should carry a $149.00 SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Messenger. This new device will send a message home, "I'm OK and having fun exactly here on this map"; or message friends "I could use a little help, exactly here"; or send a message to 911 "I need help exactly here, right now - see the map attached," (taking the Search out of Search and Rescue)!

Navigation back to camp or car with a compass which is not corrected for the current magnetic declination in Central Oregon, will be off 1,458 feet in one mile or 7,291 feet in five miles:
The current magnetic declination in Central Oregon is 15 degrees 34 minutes east, according to NOAA. (Your eTrex GPS will indicate about 17 degrees, which is not correct. NOAA adjusts the mathematical formula every five years (in January 2010) and Garmin "has no plans to update their software at this time". Your topo map may indicate 20 degrees -way out of date. I asked Pat if this might have contributed to to his travel too far west and down into the difficult drainage, however, he says no, his compass is corrected to 17 degrees east, he just did not look at his compass until he realized he might be lost.

Navigation back to camp or car with a GPS, map and compass:
Note that it is not necessary to leave a GPS turned on and outside all the time! Cold kills battery power. Two extra AA batteries can be carried in a warm pants pocket to change out batteries weakened by cold. Lithium batteries withstand the cold much better than "regular" AA batteries. Most GPS receivers have at least 14 hours of life on two new warm batteries.

It is not good to "Track Back"! You should "Go-To" your rig:
Using a $7.00 USGS topo map and a $30.00 Suunto M-3 base plate, declination-adjusted compass, it is simple to draw a line back to camp (where you have surely input a waypoint) from the bearing on your GPS GO-To page. Leaving your simple $100.00 Garmin eTrex H GPS "on" so you can "back track" is not recommended and very inefficient. Learn to use your USGS topo map, adjusted base plate compass and adjusted GPS together! Record a track, by all means, but use the GO-To function, don't try to "back track". Backtracking is a favorite technique of hunters, but use it for fun with good cell coverage on sunny days. Practice the Go-To function, used by millions of Geocachers, every day, world wide.

A wrist sized runners GPS  with a tiny back track and without a base topo map is just not satisfactory for real backcountry navigation.

With your GPS, find exactly where you are with UTM Coordinants on the right topo map, then "Go-To" your car:
Coordinants from a GPS in latitude-longitude do not work well for people (how far is a "second" of arc?) to provide their exact place on a topo map. Using the UTM grid you can find your exact position on your map. You can not do this with lat-lon Coordinants. It is not a matter of preference. Use the UTM grid Coordinants and team it with a $7.00 USGS 1:24,000 quad topo map from Bend Map and Blueprint in downtown, next to Patagonia. The USFS and SAR in Central Oregon use the UTM grid system with the right maps.


Here are some Basic suggestions for skiers, snowshoers, hunters and climbers

1. Practice the Four Basic Responsibilities of the Backcountry Traveler. They work!  Basic Responsibilities

2. Carry the new Ten Essential Systems, sized for the forecast weather and the adventure in a light day pack. This includes a map, compass and GPS and the skills to use them. In the winter, this includes enough extra insulation and waterproof clothing to keep you dry and warm if you become stranded. In snow, you must have a shovel and insulating pad and the skills to make a shelter in the snow to avoid hypothermia and frost bite damage. It works!  Essential Systems

3. Carry a fully charged digital cell phone and periodically check where it can communicate with any cell towers to assist authorities to triangulate your position from cell tower pings. (Most cell providers do not use cell phone GPS signals to locate customers under FCC E911 regulations - they use triangulation). Cold disables batteries. If the weather is cold, carry the cell phone in a pants pocket near the femoral artery. Report your UTM NAD27 coordinates, your condition, the conditions where you are and discuss your plans with SAR.  Ordinary Cell Phones   If you may be out of cell tower range, carry a SPOT.  SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger

4. Always stay found on your topo map and be aware of major land features. If visibility starts to wane, reconfirm your bearings with your map, compass and GPS and quickly return to a known location. A GPS is the only practical way for a trained individual to navigate in a whiteout or blowing snow.  Lost Mt Hood Climbers


A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers!

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to Plan for the unexpected. Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing to provide protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out. Each person should carry high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a topo map and declination adjusted base plate compass and an optional inexpensive GPS (and the skills to use them together). Each person who has a cell phone should carry their ordinary charged cell phone (from a service provider that has the best local backcountry coverage). An inexpensive SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Communicator is a good additional option for some. Each person should carry their selected items from the new 'Ten Essentials Systems' in a day pack sized for the individual, the trip, the season and the forecast weather."

"Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. Call 911 as soon as you become lost or stranded. You will not be charged. Do not try to find your way until you are benighted, exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Your ordinary cell phone call to 911 can take the 'Search' out of Search and Rescue."



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
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Op-Ed: Prepare for the worst before setting out in the winter
Lost Prineville hunter avoids hypothermia! What did he do right?
Mount Hood - Analysis of the December 2009 deaths by hypothermia, of three climbers on Reid Glacier Headwall
Climber on Mt. Rainier dies of hypothermia in brief storm. What happened
South Sister, solo hiker found unconscious near the summit
Three stranded hikers assisted from atop South Sister by SAR
Several lost hiker incidents near Sisters, resolved by SAR
Fallen solo climber on Mount Thielsen, rescued by chance encounter
Climbing South Sister: A Prospectus and a Labor Day near disaster
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Photos of a climb of South Sister
What do you carry in your summer day pack?
Several lost hiker incidents near Sisters, Oregon, resolved by SAR
Snowshoer, "lost" near Wanoga snowpark, rescued by SAR
"Be Prepared" to be stranded on winter forest roads in Oregon
Several drivers become stranded on Oregon winter forest roads, led their new GPS' "fastest way" setting
Gear grist, an article written for The Mountaineer, the monthly newsletter of The Mountaineers
Robert Speik writes: "Use your digital cell in the backcountry" for The Mountaineer
Snowboarder lost overnight near Mount Bachelor, rescued by SAR 

Woman leaves car stuck in snow near Klamath Falls, dies from exposure
Climbing South Sister: A Prospectus and a Labor Day near disaster
Trail runner survives fall on ice with cell phone call
Once again, hypothermia kills stranded Oregon driver
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
Lessons learned from the latest lost Christmas tree hunters
FREE Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why are "Snow Caves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury 
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Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
How can I prevent, recognize and treat Hypothermia?
Op-Ed: Prepare for the worst before setting out in the winter
Prineville hunter lost 4 winter days and 3 nights in the Ochoco National Forest
Several hikers lost near Sisters, rescued by SAR
Snowshoer, "lost" near Wanoga snowpark, rescued by SAR
"Be Prepared" to be stranded on winter forest roads in Oregon
Several drivers become stranded on Oregon winter forest roads, led their new GPS' "fastest way" setting
Gear grist, an article written for The Mountaineer, the monthly newsletter of The Mountaineers
Robert Speik writes: "Use your digital cell in the backcountry" for The Mountaineer
Teen girls become lost overnight returning from hike to Moraine Lake
Snowboarder lost overnight near Mount Bachelor, rescued by SAR 
Woman leaves car stuck in snow near Klamath Falls, dies from exposure
Man rescued from crevasse just off South Sister climber's trail
Climbing South Sister: A Prospectus and a Labor Day near disaster
Trail runner survives fall on ice with cell phone call
Once again, hypothermia kills stranded Oregon driver
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
Lessons learned from the latest lost Christmas tree hunters
New rescue services for all American Alpine Club Members
OpEd: Oregon requires electronic communications in the backcountry
Rescue charges in traditional alpine mountaineering
Governor establishes a Search and Rescue Task Force
Oregon Search and Rescue Statutes
Lost hiker in Oregon backcountry found with heat-sensing device in airplane
HB2509 mandates electronic locator beacons on Mt. Hood - climbers' views
Oregon HB 2509
Three hikers and a dog rescued on Mt. Hood
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Snow stranded Utah couple leave car and die from hypothermia
Death on Mt. Hood - What happened to the three North Face climbers? 
Two climbers become lost descending Mt. Hood
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Lost snowmobile riders found, one deceased from hypothermia
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Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
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Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
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 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
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  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

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  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

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BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
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Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
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Cooking the "navigation noodle"