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What happened to the three climbers, their MLU and their dog on Mt. Hood?

There has been much speculation about the wisdom of climbing Mt. Hood in the winter. This group of teachers and friends carried extra clothing, sleeping bags, camping gear and two of the Mt. Hood personal "Mountain Locator Units" up the snow slopes of Mt. Hood. They were accompanied by a large dog. They were not climbing "light and fast" for the summit. They called for rescue about 40 minutes from the parking lot. Were they reckless? Or were they simply, untrained, naive and inexperienced?

What can mountaineers and others learn from this event that filled the news for three days in February 2007?
The primary purpose of these TraditionalMountaineering experience reports (and of the American Alpine Club's fifty eight Annual Reports of Accidents in North American Mountaineering) is to aid in the prevention of accidents.


What happened on Mt Hood?

What happened on Mt Hood?
A group of eight young men and women, some of them school teachers, and a black lab-mix dog, headed up from Timberline Lodge parking lot across the snowfields toward Illumination Saddle, above Illumination Rock, a landmark off the South Side Route on Mt. Hood, in sunny weather on Saturday, February 17, 2007.

They say they were mindful of a forecast storm. They planned to snow camp Saturday night at perhaps 9,200', about 2,000' below the summit. They told reporters that they planned to decide in the early morning of Sunday, dependent on the weather, whether or not to climb toward the summit of Mt. Hood. They would have had to climb the very technical winter route up and across the Hogback snow formation, around the snow filled Bergschrund and steeply up thorough the winter conditions of the Pearly Gates to the summit plateau of Mt. Hood and then return. The technical requirements of this winter summit attempt were well beyond them.

Early Sunday morning, the forecast storm was coming in. They were truly not prepared to climb Mt. Hood in the winter. They decided to pack up their snow camp and descend to the Lodge parking lot below the snow fields of the Timberline lift-served ski venue.

As the morning past, the visibility predictably deteriorated to a whiteout and the wind increased.

Matty Bryant, 34 and a special education teacher in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, was one of the leaders. He was walking ahead, "compass in hand", short roped at 20 feet to two others to keep the group together. Mattie was the owner of the dog, a four-year-old black lab-mix named Velvet. Matty states he did not trust a GPS.

The owner of the GPS was behind focused on an eastern waypoint at the ski lift. For some reason, the GPS operator failed to report that they were one third of a mile past the ski lift and headed toward the White River Canyon drainage.

On the way down, walking toward the ski lift line, they overshot by a third of a mile and Matty Bryant stepped over a wind formed edge of snow (called a "ledge" in the media), stumbled and pulled the next two people onto a steep slope. The three slid out of control down into the White River Canyon drainage which extends on climber's right from the parking lot almost to Crater Rock and the hogback. Velvet slid down tied to Mattie. They soon slowed to a stop on easier snow slopes and found that in the blowing snow, they were out of sight of the remaining group of five. One of his companions was unconscious and bleeding from gashes in her head. (The young woman who had cuts and a possible concussion from a crampon kick was later checked at the hospital and released).

Matty looked for the second roped group. Visibility was low. They could not be seen. Matty elected to not re-climb their obvious slide path to re-join their companions.

The three who slid away were wearing crampons. According to their comments during a televised interview, they had been told by their friends to keep their crampon points in the air so that they did not catch a foot and break a leg during the fast slide. This is a common danger with sliding on steep snow while wearing crampons.

No mention has been made of Ice axes. No mention has been made of any efforts to self arrest their long slide down the hard snow slope. The print media reports and television interviews that we have heard are silent on this rather basic steep snow travel imperative. Matty Bryant states they were using ski poles in his recollection of the slide.

Trevor Liston, the other leader and a self described "experienced Mt. Hood" climber, was reportedly "holding onto the end of the first rope". He let go the rope (and lost a glove) as he was held back by his rope team following in line behind him.

The remaining party of five including Liston, used their rope to belayed a "scout" climbing down the slide path to see how far their companions had slid. No one could be seen and he climbed back up to the main group. Estimates of the slide path length vary up to 500 linear feet.

They decided to remain as two separate groups.  It is assumed the two groups contacted each other by cell phone.

Trevor Liston then called 911 and was transferred to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit. The Rescue Coordinator asked both groups to stop and to stay in place and "dig-in" until they could be reached by Rescue Volunteers. Liston's top group of five "camped" in place for the second afternoon. They dug snow caves and settled in for the afternoon and evening.

The Liston group of five relayed their GPS position to SAR over the telephone. The search and rescue was underway!

The Liston group had essential insulating pads, sleeping bags, shovels to dig snow caves, food and water and essential gear for the night before. They had at least one cell phones and a GPS.

For some reason the Matty Bryant group of three did not camp in place, but after the injured person returned to consciousness after the probable kick to the head, they elected to hike on down.

They left two of their three backpacks filled with their winter gear as the concussed woman could not carry her pack and needed support. They walked down the bottom of the White River drainage for about 40 minutes before they had to stop and "camp".

Unfortunately, the Matty Bryant group of three was now not well equipped for an overnight. They did not have a shovel or a tent. The three teachers "sheltered" under a small tarp huddled under two sleeping bags on ensolite pads on the snow with Velvet. Matty describes a difficult night with the wind tearing at the tarp. The media gushed, "The dog Velvet saved the lives of the fallen climbers!"

Apparently, the owner of the GPS had not input the location of the huge Resort parking lot and any other key features as GPS "GO-TO" waypoints.   Any person can carry a map, compass and GPS but few people actually know how to use them properly.

Matty was relying upon "a compass held in hand while walking", a basic compass goof, to find their way to the huge parking lot. He actually led his eight companions east instead of south.

A GPS carried in hand will always point toward the selected Waypoint (say the parking lot) while the owner is walking. Geocachers know this well.

The Liston group of five was located at their GPS coordinate position which they had given by phone. The Search and Rescue volunteers (by snow cat and by hiking up the snow slope) made their way to the GPS location reported on their cell phone. GPS accuracy on an unobstructed snow slope should exceed 4.1 meters.

The Liston main group of five friends were "found" by the volunteer rescuers at their phoned in GPS location and transported down across the ski slopes by snow cat that Sunday evening.

The "lost" Matty Bryant group of three and Velvet were found based on the GPS coordinates given to Rescuers by the main group and by information from their hourly cell phone calls to the Rescuers. They did not have a GPS. They had a cell phone. They called in to SAR each hour according to an interview on OPB broadcast on March 5, 2007.

The cell phone calls alerted the volunteer Rescuers to activate their MLU receivers. Please read below for a description of MLUs for Mt. Hood compared to world wide Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), EPIRBs and Avalanche Beacons.

The Rescuers did use their MLUs while approaching the group of three. Searchers are quoted as saying the MLU receivers are "neither accurate nor easy to use". An old fashioned whistle is said to have brought them together.

The entire group of eight friends was none the worse for their adventure. The SAR volunteers participated in an arduous but relatively quick, risk controlled, high profile and successful Rescue. The media got a few days of breaking news. The public had a chance to experience risk from their armchairs.

Velvet had injuries to paws and toenails which were taken care of at a Veterinarian Hospital. Taking dogs on summit climbs is not smart. Certainly it is not smart to bring a dog into a forecast snow storm!

We initially tried to contact the individuals involved in this event by finding their telephone numbers on web based area directories. The numbers were not listed. (The new federal HIPPA Regulations prevent Rescuers from giving more information than name, age and city of residence). Matty Bryant has put up a website in which he describes their stranding.




Our Traditional Mountaineering Analysis

Why did they call for a Rescue?
What do we know now, and what would we like to know, to better understand what happened to these cheerful adventurers who have been booked now to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show?

Let us frame our questions around the Four Basic Responsibilities of all Outdoorsmen offered by

1. The Responsible Person.
We do not know if the group of eight had left a Responsible Person with instructions to call Search and Rescue at 911 if they had not checked in by a certain time.
One should not rely on cell phone calls to initiate Search and Rescue.

The two groups were able to make cell phone calls from the snow slopes on Mt. Hood to 911. These calls led to the "dramatic" rescue effort that was reported, hour by hour in the media.

Lest one dismisses this imperative, I ask him or her to read my Report of a climbing accident on Mount Washington in 2001, published in the fifty fourth edition of Accidents in North American Mountaineering. The two climbers involved lay in agony for three days and two nights at the foot of their route high on the mountain after a 100 foot fall to a hard snow ramp, with broken femur and compound tib-fib fractures and more. They had not asked friends to call 911 if they did not meet at Smith Rock after their 24 hour "adventure" climb. They were discovered almost by chance. Read more about this accident on Mt. Washington. This accident was also analyzed in Outside Magazine.

This is the most important Responsibility affecting surety of rescue, of our Four Traditional Basic Responsibilities of all Outdoorsmen.

2. The Ten Essential Systems.
The Ten Essential Systems, propounded by The Mountaineers of Seattle, Washington, and detailed in their basic to advanced text Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills, now in it's seventh edition, discusses the clothing and gear each person should carry. This clothing and gear varies according to the season, the forecast weather, the difficulty of the climb and the style of the climb. The new Ten Essential Systems supersede the original Ten Essentials.

It is reported that the group of eight were equipped with essential camping gear and clothing needed for a slow ascent and a relatively easy descent down across the snowfields to the Lodge, and that they hoped to beat the forecast incoming storm. They expressed surprise at the actual force of the storm and the lack of visibility in the white-out conditions typical on Mt. Hood

Technical climbing gear for Mt. Hood.
At least two of the party of eight had "climbed Mr. Hood several times" and called themselves "experienced Mt. Hood climbers". The rest of the group may have been "experienced sport rock climbers and outdoors people", but they are not described as experienced and trained traditional mountain climbers.

Reportedly the three who slid away were wearing crampons. According to their comments on a television news program, they had been instructed by their friends to keep their crampon points in the air so that they did not catch during a fast slide. This is a common imperative for sliding on steep snow while wearing crampons.

No mention has been made of Ice axes. No mention was made of any efforts to self arrest their long slide down the hard snow slope. The print media stories and television interviews that we have heard seem to be silent on this rather important point. We question whether they were equipped with mountaineering ice axes.

The group was short roped to stay close together during the descent in wind, blowing snow and low visibility. The second rope team was holding on to the end of the first rope. The best practice on an un-crevassed snow field is to have the interval as long as visibility allows. The second person should navigate directing the point person to go right or left as each rope interval is reached. Is that description clear as mud?

Essential Clothing for Mt. Hood in the winter.
At this time we do not know what essential clothing they had to prevent the loss of body heat during their exploratory excursion and overnight camp in the snow. Specific designed clothing layers are an important basic essential to protect against the loss of body heat. Read about avoiding hypothermia.

Two of their overnight backpacks were discovered by experienced climbers almost a month after they were abandoned at the bottom of their slide path! This is a dangerous beginners goof. Many novices have died when they dropped their packs to make a run for their car in an oncoming snow storm.

We know that one of the two young women who slid down the snowfield in the wind and flying snow, was reported to be shivering violently before they sheltered from the wind in the two sleeping bags and a tarp. This is not surprising, since stopping activity without adding a thick layer of insulation will allow anyone become cold. On OPB today, March 5, 2007, they all reported that they were wet! A correct clothing system should not have become "wet".

Nutrition and hydration systems.
They hiked up across the consolidated snow about 2.5 miles with about 3,300 feet of gain. It would be helpful to know the following hydration and carbohydrate calorie replacement questions: What stoves and how much fuel did the group carry? How much easily digested high carbohydrate food did they carry to avoid bonking after their hard slog up the snow field? A great deal of hydration is lost to perspiration and heavy breathing during hard uphill snow travel.

The earliest stages of Hypothermia such as uncontrolled shivering upon arrival at camp, cause the body to purge water from the blood stream as the extremities are shut down. The individual must re-hydrate aggressively with liters of warm melted snow laced with metabolites to stop the slide toward profound hypothermia and death. None of the group experienced first stage Hypothermia.

Apparently they had no food or water after they dropped their packs.

Emergency shelter system.
The group of three chose to "camp" on Sunday on a snow field near a rock outcropping, avoiding the brunt of high winds and the driving snow. They did not have a shovel to create a safe "snow cave" with an entrance located below the level of the sleeping bench. A safe snow cave cannot be constructed without a shovel, or better two shovels. Each person should carry an essential snow shovel to provide shelter in the snow. (The shovels remained with the main group.)

It is reported that they sheltered with a tarp huddling together under the two sleeping bags under the tarp with the large dog.

Did each participant have adequate insulation from the snow? Reportedly, two climbers had at least the equal of a 3/4 length 9 oz. ensolite insulating pad.

The personal Ten Essential Systems carried by each participant is the most important Responsibility affecting a positive outcome after a stranding, of our Four Traditional Basic Responsibilities of all outdoorsmen.

3. Navigation system.
It would be helpful to know if everyone in the group had a small inexpensive GPS receiver, input with the UTM waypoints for Illumination Saddle, the lower end of the hog back, the likely edge of the bergschrund, the entrance to the "Pearly Gates" and the summit of Mt. Hood, (if indeed they intended to go higher than their camp). Did each person have an inexpensive GPS, input with waypoints for the Silcox Hut, the top station of the ski lift and the Timberline Lodge parking lot?

Did each member of the group have a topo map and a compass set for the current Mt. Hood area declination of 17 degrees east declination? Were their maps marked with the bearing lines from their proposed camp site for the sometimes tricky descent to the Lodge?

It would be helpful to know if all eight friends input the UTM location of Timberline Lodge parking lot in their small $100. GPS receivers carried until needed, turned off in a warm inside pocket. In a white-out one can very easily become lost on Mt. Hood. Several people have died above the ski slopes on Mt. Hood.

Having a map, compass and GPS carried by each participant is the most important Responsibility affecting an individual becoming lost, of our Four Traditional Basic Responsibilities of all outdoorsmen. Also, one must have the ability to use these tools together. Each person? Why not? The cost is as little as $136 for topo map, base plate compass and GPS. Never trust one person with the sole responsibility for backcountry navigation.

However, being lost is not the only reason for becoming stranded in the backcountry. A party can become stranded by weather, injury, illness or equipment failure in their party or another party.

4. Communications.
The group of eight carried at least two cell phones and put them to critical use when it was clear they had a perceived problem. The main group telephoned 911 and reported their exact location (within 4.1 meters) from a single GPS receiver. They kept in touch by cell phone until "rescued". The group of three did not have even one GPS but phoned SAR every hour until "rescued".

Did each participant have a cell phone input with the cell number of each member of the group to keep in touch on the mountain? Did the group carry short distance un-licensed inexpensive family radios to keep the group in communication? This might be the ideal communications plan for some groups. Some adventurers might benefit from the use of HAM radios.

The two of the eight friends had rented Mountain Locator Units (MLUs).  Luckily, one was with each group! "Transmitter, dog saved Mount Hood climbers! Velvet kept them warm; signals fixed their location". These were the headlines on February 20, 2007, of an Associated Press story that was picked up an reprinted across the nation. "For three climbers stranded on Mount Hood, survival was a live transmitter and a warm dog."

We do not agree that MLUs (nor carrying big warm dogs) should be required for climbing Mt. Hood.
1. See below for the blog from CascadeClimbers with details about the Mt. Hood MLUs and the local Mt. Hood rental program.  2. Read about the Episcopal School Tragedy which motivated the development of the MLU system. In that tragedy, the unmarked snow cave could not be seen by Rescuers. Short range MLU beacon triangulation might have helped find the cave entrance on the snow field.  3. Read more about Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs).

Having charged personal cell phones and/or family radios and GPS receivers is the most important Responsibility affecting an efficient rescue outcome, of our Four Traditional Basic Responsibilities of all Outdoorsmen. Each member of the group having a cell phone or family radio and a GPS is the ideal perhaps, but which members of the group would be among the three who slid into White River Canyon?


Our Summary:
Neither the two Mountain Locator Units nor the warm dog Velvet, were responsible for a favorable outcome for this rescue.

Cell phone calls which alerted 911 and a GPS receiver were the critical gear. While the Bryant group of three apparently did not have a single GPS, they were located generally from the GPS position given by the main group and by cell phone descriptions of their slide and subsequent 40 minute walk down White River Canyon. The three phoned SAR each hour until "rescued" according to their comments on OPB on March 5, 2007.

Rescuers did try out the MLU system, but we understand using it was "neither easy nor exact" coming up White River Canyon. See the Military Reserve Para-Rescue news release below.

The main group was walking on non-technical snow slopes, not so far above groomed ski slopes and the parking lot. They were able to walk down the snow with Rescue Volunteers to a waiting snow cat at the top of the groomed ski slope. The group of three were found "cold and wet under a small tarp" and "escorted down toward Highway 35. Approximately one mile before reaching the Highway, they were met by a snow cat and all were delivered safely to White River Sno-park".

Two of their large backpacks were found by two experienced climbers after having been abandoned for a month! The two fit and experienced climbers carried their own light and fast packs and the two heavy abandoned packs down to the parking lot in about 40 minutes according to their post on They report that the large parking lot was clearly visible from the location of the two abandoned packs.

The group of friends may have been equipped with some elements of the Ten Essential Systems but they were not experienced and trained to use the Essential Systems or to use their technical mountaineering gear. The low velocity fall should have been arrested by the group with their own ice axes or by the top people simply sitting down and digging in their heels or going into a traditional self arrest. Our guess is that the group was simply walking on the easy snow slopes and that their rented short technical ice axes (if they had them) were strapped on their back packs.

No one in the group of eight new how to use a map, compass and GPS receiver. Each person should have followed Waypoints which had been input from a Quad map or on the way hiking up from their vehicles. They should have followed their GPS "GO-TOs" back down the way they came up using the GPS and not followed a "compass held in hand while walking"! The group of three who slid away did not have a single GPS! We assume they did not have a USGS topo map either

They should have had the ability to shelter in properly constructed snow caves, not huddled under a tarp near a boulder. While the group of five dug a snow cave shelter at the edge of the White River Canyon, the three who slid away did not have a shovel. They should have carried at least four personal shovels among the eight people.

Note: I asked the Clackamas County Sheriff's Public Information Officer if he could pass along my request for a call-back to Matty Bryant. Matty called me. I identified myself as a traditional mountaineering writer. I noted that I had contributed to Rock and Ice and Backpacker Magazines. Matty asked for a donation for "the heroic rescuers" before he would give me any information. I declined and he said he would contact those magazines himself, asking for a donation for his story. He did say that he intended to make available a ten page press release "in a few days" and gave me a contact email address. Here is the website: Miss Velvet's Homepage.

Note: Matty Bryant and his two companions and Velvet were interviewed recently on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I missed the show. Reportedly $10,000 was given to the Veterinarian Hospital and $30,000 was given to Portland Mountain Rescue.

Matty is soliciting more donations for the Search and Rescue Units who participated. Some rescuers say they would prefer that the public be educated in the traditional mountaineering techniques that might have avoided this rescue. --Webmeister Speik


The Reason for this enquiry: A QUOTE FROM 1871
See yonder height! 'Tis far away -- unbidden comes the word "Impossible!"

"Not so," says the mountaineer.  "The way is long, I know; its difficult -- it may be dangerous."

"It's possible, I'm sure; I'll seek the way, take counsel of my brother mountaineers,
and find out how they have reached similar heights and learned to avoid the dangers."

He starts (all slumbering down below); the path is slippery - and may be dangerous too. 
Caution and perseverance gain the day
-- the height is reached! and those beneath cry, "Incredible! 'Tis superhuman!"

This is a passage we found on page 161 of "Scrambles Amongst the Alps" by Edward Wymper,
first published in 1871 and reprinted 1981 by Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.


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 protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate food, two quarts of water or Gatorade and the ability to make more, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged cell phone and inexpensive walkie-talkie radios. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essential Systems" in a day pack sized for 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. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or exercise around your marked location to stay warm. Do not try to find your way until you are exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.



"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. Read more about The Mission.


Selected Media Reports during the Search and Recovery are copied below

Three Climbers Lost in White River Canyon
Portland Mountain Rescue
Sunday, February 18, 2007

At 12:30pm on Sunday, February 18, 2007 the Clackamas County Sheriff paged Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) to assist in the search for three missing climbers. The subjects had been part of a larger group of eight when the three and their dog fell down a steep slope into the White River Canyon. White-out conditions and high winds prevailed at the time. The five subjects that did not fall called for help with a cell phone and were able to provide GPS coordinates of their location. Both subject parties had Mountain Locator Units (MLUs) and both parties activated them. MLUs, a technology used exclusively on Mount Hood, send out a locating signal but do not send any alerting signal to initiate a search.

Mt Hood from the south

A small team of four PMR personnel and four emergency medical technicians from American Medical Response (AMR) made their way to the group of five subjects by 5pm. These subjects had dug a snow cave at the 8200 foot level, close to the edge of the White River Canyon. Two members of the AMR team accompanied these subjects back to Timberline Lodge.

The remaining members of the rescue team descended about 450 feet into the White River Canyon but were unable to locate the fallen climbers. Nightfall and worsening avalanche hazard and weather conditions (including wind gusts over 70mph) forced the team to retreat.

Meanwhile, a team of rescuers from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 304th Rescue Squadron attempted to reach the subjects by climbing up from the White River Bridge on Highway 35. This team reached an elevation of 6300 feet on the west rim of the canyon and was forced to bivouac for the night. Another team of volunteer rescuers, the Crag Rats, from Hood River, Oregon ascended to the 7000 foot level on Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area to take a MLU bearing and help pinpoint the fallen party. A volunteer group known as Mountain Wave assisted everyone with communications. Volunteer teams from Eugene Mountain Rescue and Corvallis Mountain Rescue arrived to assist as well as Deschutes County Sheriff’s SAR members and Hood River County Sheriff Department.

At first light, PMR fielded a new team that rendezvoused with the team that had bivouacked at 6300 feet. The PMR team then descended into and proceeded up the White River Canyon and located the three subjects and their dog with the MLU. Contact with the missing climbers was made at 10:30am. The subjects were wet and cold and in a very windy, exposed location at 7400 feet elevation. After the initial fall, the subjects had traveled down slope for approximately 40 minutes before huddling together with their dog near a boulder. They also made use of two sleeping bags and a small tarp for protection against the elements. The rescuers gave the three food, water and additional clothing prior to leading them down the White River Canyon toward Highway 35. Approximately one mile before reaching the highway, they were met by a snow cat and all were delivered safely to White River Sno-park around 4:00 PM on Monday.

High winds and whiteout conditions make alpine navigation very difficult. It is important for any party to consider that even using tools like a compass or GPS may be quite difficult in severe weather. Predicted changes in the weather should be given weighty consideration when contemplating an alpine adventure.



Reserve para-rescue men help rescue Mount Hood climbers
Staff Sgt. Josiah Blanton uses a directional antenna to locate a beacon signal from a mountain locator unit during a search for three missing climbers Feb 18 at Mount Hood, Ore. Once he found the signal, he marked the location and radioed it to the command post to be plotted on a map. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Mark Ross)

by Master Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny
939th Air Refueling Wing

2/20/2007 - PORTLAND, Ore. (AF NEWS) -- Air Force Reserve pararescuemen from 304th Rescue Squadron, Portland International Airport, Ore., were called Feb. 18 to assist in the search and rescue effort for three stranded climbers.

While attempting to descend Mount Hood, Ore., the three people and a dog, who were roped together, fell through a snow cornice and landed in a life-threatening situation.

The climbers activated their mountain locator units, or MLUs, and used a cell phone to call for help. Rescuers were able to help five other climbers from the group back to the Timberline Lodge, but the three remaining climbers would spend the night facing blizzard conditions.

The 304th team, four pararescuemen and two combat rescue officers, arrived at Government Camp at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 and checked into the Clackamas County Sheriff's command post. They were the only team to search throughout the night and tracked a beacon signal transmitted from the climber's MLU, said Capt. Mark Ross, 304th RQS combat rescue officer.

"We had them electronically during the entire search," said Captain Ross. "It's not an exact location, but we could hear their beacon signal and reported coordinates to narrow the search area and mark a safe trail for the other teams to follow in the morning."

Using a directional antenna, the six-man PJ team searched for more than 12 hours through deep snow, below-freezing temperatures with winds in excess of 70 mph causing white-out conditions.

While they searched during the night in high avalanche danger areas, they reported their coordinates by radio to be plotted using mapping software in the command post at Timberline Lodge.

"The MLU helped this time," said Hal Lillywhite, Portland Mountain Rescue command post volunteer. "I don't think they would have found them so quickly if they didn't have the locators."

"The MLU (only used on Mount Hood) is a small transmitter that can be activated in an emergency and transmits up to 60 days," said Mr. Lillywhite. "However, the signal does not give an exact location and it is not monitored. Emergency services will not be activated until someone calls for help."

Rescuers said the MLU is better than nothing, but the device's technology is outdated. They recommend climbers use more effective locator devices such as a personal locator beacon, Global Positioning System or emergency position indicating radio beacon, that are continuously monitored by satellites and can pinpoint exact locations, along with a cell phone. Items offering this level of technology are often more costly, but can usually be rented.

"These devices can take the search out of search and rescue," said Captain Ross. "It's a small price to pay when every minute counts toward survival."

After searching for more than six hours, the exhausted team made temporary shelters in the snow at 4 a.m. They ate Meals, Ready to Eat and candy bars to regain their strength before continuing their search for the missing climbers.

"The search was brutal and we climbed hard to get to the missing climbers," said Captain Ross. "Once the sun came up more rescue teams were sent into the area. We were poised at the entrance to the climbers but stopped due to the hazards."

The 304th team and the other rescue teams surveyed the terrain to come up with a plan to continue the search.

"Our team was on the way to continue the search when the teams met at the first avalanche hazard," said Captain Ross "To avoid exposing rescuers to avalanche conditions, we made a risk benefit decision to send a smaller, fresh Portland Mountain Rescue team into the area. They could report back if they needed additional assistance. We went into a stand-by mode waiting to hear if the rescuers needed our help."

At 11 a.m. Feb. 19, rescuers reached the missing climbers and the Clackamas Sheriff's Office, reported that all was well. The rescuers and climbers were able to walk out and they were picked up by a Sno-Cat around 3:30 p.m. to bring them further down the mountain.

The 304th RQS and the Clackamas, Hood River and Washington County Sheriff's Offices worked together with many volunteer organizations including Portland Mountain Rescue, Hood River Craig Rats, Eugene Mountain Rescue, Corvallis Mountain Rescue, and Mountain Wave Radio Communications.

"We've always appreciated the 304th's experience and help in rescues," said Sheriff Deputy Tygh Thompson, Washington County Sheriff's Office SAR coordinator. "These guys bring a mass of people who are skilled in many different areas who are paramedic, who can climb mountains and swim rivers. They are an all-purpose rescue resource, and they have skills and equipment that no one else has. I think we are blessed to have them in the area. If we could do more training scenarios together throughout the year it would be a benefit for all."



Transmitter, dog saved Mount Hood climbers
Velvet kept them warm; signals fixed their location


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PORTLAND -- For three climbers stranded on Mount Hood, survival was a live transmitter and a warm dog.

Rescuers said two women and a man who waited out a winter storm on the 11,239-foot mountain beamed signals to rescuers who were able to fix their precise location, as they covered up with two sleeping bags, a tarp and the dog, a black Labrador named Velvet.

"The dog probably saved their lives," said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team.

After Velvet helped them through the night, transmitters the size of sunglasses cases led Brom and other rescuers to the three stranded climbers.

The devices are called Mountain Locator Units and are available for rental at half a dozen locations in Portland and the Mount Hood area, and search leaders gave the devices and the climbers' use of them credit.

"The most important part of this rescue is that they did everything right," said Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Brian Bate, operations supervisor of the REI outdoors store in downtown Portland, said mountaineers can rent the units for $5 a climb -- for a party of eight, that means $40.

But the devices are set up only to transmit, not to receive, Bate said. And the signal is received only by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, at the base of Mount Hood, and then only when the sheriff's office is looking for a climber, he said.

That makes filing a trip report with friends, relatives and authorities "really, really important," he said, so that when a climber is overdue, a search can quickly be triggered.

An alternative, Bate said, at $450 to $550 to purchase a unit, are personal locator beacons, much like those in maritime use, that alert the Coast Guard and other authorities of trouble at sea, and work anywhere in the world to raise an alarm.

Three climbers who became stranded on Mount Hood in December did not have such a locating device. One climber made a cell phone call to his family, but the phone went dead within days. The three climbers stranded this week had cell phones, and also GPS devices that helped rescue teams home in on them.

The three climbers, with Velvet leaping last into the ambulance, were taken away in an ambulance late Monday.

Note: "The most important part of this rescue is that they did everything right," said Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Please understand that "they did everything right" or "they did nothing wrong" is a statement made by the County Sheriff's Office which confirms that the individuals did nothing ILLEGAL. This finding enables the Sheriff to wave any charges for the rescue. Oregon State law requires the Sheriff charge $500 for each person rescued, if any laws are broken by the persons rescued. Read the law for yourself, here. Unfortunately the press and public do not understand this; the implication is the rescued person just had a stoke of bad luck that could happen to anyone! --Webmeister Speik



Good snow caves best hope for Mt. Hood climbers
By Tim Fought
Associated Press
The Bulletin
December 15, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - If Kelly James and his climbing companions get off Mount Hood alive, it will almost certainly be a result of their success in digging womb-like snow caves, mountaineering experts said Thursday.

The climbers conceivably could make it, and it would help mightily if they took lightweight camp stoves and fuel with them when they set out more than a week ago for the summit of the 11,239-foot volcanic peak.

On Thursday, rescuers continued to wait on the middle elevations of the mountain for the weather to clear, and family members took hope from two-day-old signals from James' cell phone handset.

The fiercest storm of a turbulent week bore down on the region Thursday afternoon, prompting authorities to order journalists off the mountain.

Rescue teams remained hunkered down at a campground at about 6,000 feet, waiting for a break in the weather and a chance to advance to the summit. That opportunity was unlikely to present itself until the weekend, weather forecasters said.

But with the hikers missing since Sunday in worsening weather, the question of their survival tactics pressed more urgently.

"It doesn't take a lot to survive if you can create a good snow cave," said Dunham Gooding, president of the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, Wash., which provides mountain guides and training services.

What makes a good shelter from mountain storms?

It should be small, with about enough room to go to the bathroom and turn, Gooding said. "It's going to be warmer the smaller it is," he said.

Its living area should be uphill of the entrance, so as to trap what warm air rises from the body, said Robert Speik of Bend, who said he has spent 35 years giving mountaineering instruction with the Sierra Club and has been involved in other training for climbers.

It needs a breathing tube, which could be either the entrance, Gooding said, or a separate opening to the outside. What's critical is that the climber be able to clear it readily, he said.

It should be a two-person job because there's risk of hypothermia in constructing a snow cave, Speik said.

"In digging the snow cave, you have to be careful to not get wet with sweat or snow," he said.

Beyond that, the experts said, the most important things are water and insulation.

Ingesting snow directly is dangerous because that lowers body temperature and increases the risk of hypothermia, Speik said.

Best is to melt snow with a stove, but search authorities say they have very little information about what kind of clothes or gear the climbers took on what was supposed to be a rapid, "light and fast ascent." Gooding said that phrase can mean different things to different climbers.

James, 48, and Brian Hall, 37, both of Dallas and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y., began their hike last week and were reported missing on Sunday after James called his family saying he was in a snow cave, that the party was in trouble and Hall and Cooke had descended for help.

Associated Press writer Typhanny Tucker contributed to this story.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Marc Lieberman| Producer | CBS Evening News

Note: I have included this responsiple report here in order to help new people understand that carrying a one pound snow shovel or two can provide a bomb proof shelter for several people on a snow slope. A quicker shelter can be provided by a shovel and a three pound tent for two. Read more here. --Webmeister Speik




The statements below were written by a representative of each rescue team.

Mt. Hood Ski Patrol
Mt. Hood Ski Patrol is a 501(c)3 organization
P.O. Box 4384
Portland, OR 97208.

Mt. Hood Ski Patrol’s roll was to have the Nordic ski patrollers’ ski up White River canyon on Monday, chasing the cell phone pings that showed the climbers at 5400 foot level. Three of us started out as team 6 form the White River Snow Park at about 9:00. We were about 1.5 miles in when the three climbers were found, but we continued up to meet the group and help escort the climbers down. At the 5,000 foot level, where the canyon opens up and there is no more protection form the wind by trees and the terrain becomes steep and rough, we dropped our skies and switched to snow shoes. We spent about an hour scouting the safest rout to cross the river on snow bridges and ways to avoid avalanche slopes. At this time a two person Reach and Treat team from AMR caught up with us, and we continued up as one team. We continued up the canyon to the 5600 foot level where we built a snow cave where the AMR team could do a field evaluation of the injured climber. We also continued scouting around for safe routs through the canyon. While we were focusing our attention on the cave and the canyon above us the climbers and rescuers crossed a couple of hundred feet below us intersecting our path at about the 5400 foot level. We started down and caught up with them as they met the snow cat.

Mt. Hood Ski Patrol is the oldest ski patrol in the U.S.!

Portland Mountain Rescue
PMR is a 501(c)3 organization
Po box 5391
Portland, OR 97228-5391

PMR lead the hasty team (Team 1) which reached the 3 climbers in the canyon and escorted them out. We also had other teams on the mountain which had rescue litters (baskets) and packaging gear to evacuate the climbers if they were too hypothermic to walk out. We also participated in Sunday’s mission which reached your group of climbers above the canyon. A total of 29 volunteers were involved.

AMR Rat team
AMR team is a for-profit company.

Our role in the sar incident was to provide Advanced Life Support care as needed for any injury or illnesses that may have occurred. In addition, two AMR RAT members led the first group of 5 subjects back towards the Palmer Lift the evening of the 18th. Two RAT members stayed in the field and assisted PMR in a rope system to attempt to locate the 3 subjects and dog. Also, during the night a team of two RATs stood-by at Timberline Lodge on a ready-status.

The next day, the 19th, two RAT members were on a ready-status throughout the morning. Upon the find of the 3 subjects, the RAT members entered the field to evaluate the subjects for any injury or illnesses. Upon arrival at the sno-park, the crew then transported a patient to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Crag Rats
Crag Rats is a 501(c)3 organization
Hood River Crag Rats
PO Box 1159
Hood River, Oregon 97031

On Sunday, a total of six of our members responded. Ultimately, three were sent to the edge of the White River canyon near the Silcox Hut. Three were sent to area of the Vista chair on the Mount Hood Meadows side of the canyon. Those three were joined by an off-duty ski patroller who is the son of one of our members.

Both of those groups worked with MLU receivers to help triangulate the position of your friends. I do not know whether they were responsible for the triangulation that lead to the discovery of your friends. I believe that they were (at least partially) responsible.

On Monday, three of our members dropped into the canyon from the Meadows side (one of those persons participated in the Sunday evening mission). I was with that group. Our job was to gather your friends if they wandered in our direction. Fortunately, they stayed still as they should have.

A fourth member drove the snow cat that was used to transport searchers on the Meadows side of the canyon. That cat was also used to transport your friends out of the canyon.

Corvallis Mt. Rescue
CMR is a 501(c)3 organization
PO Box 116
Corvallis, Oregon 97339

On Sunday night around 10pm, we were contacted to provide assistance with the rescue on Mt. Hood. We sent a team of 7 up Sunday night. I suppose technically it was Monday morning. Our team was asked to wait as back-up. They spent the better part of the day in a snow cave above Timberline Lodge. They were waiting near another team, that included some Portland Mountain Rescue members, that was also waiting as back-up. It is common to hold teams in reserve for a variety of reasons.

Eugene Mountain Rescue
EMR is a 501(c)3 organization
P.O. box 20
Eugene, OR 97440-0020

Six members of Eugene Mountain Rescue arrived at Search Base at approximately 6am, Monday, February 19, 2007. We were assigned to work with three members of Crag Rats team. From Mount Hood Meadows ski lodge parking area, both teams were transported via snowcat to the top of the Vista Chair lift area of Mount Hood Meadows. We were to take another reading of the MLU signal, confirm the coordinates where the MLU was transmitting from, and proceed to that area. The wind was already fierce on the ridge with spin drift making it difficult to see. The receiver for the MLU transmission only got static. So the two teams transported the equipment down towards White River to get out of the wind and to make an approach to the last calculated position of the climbers. Unfortunately the wind continued, and the equipment failed to receive a signal. The two teams traveled together towards the last calculated position, but visibility was becoming a problem. We then realized we had traveled into an area that had large cornices hanging above us. We climbed up on an adjacent ridge to get out of the avalanche danger and had hoped to proceed along to ridge and over to the last calculated position. However, the winter storm that had been forecasted for the day was descending on us and visibility became more of a problem, and the wind was forceful enough to knock us off our feet. In addition, we realized the ridge we were on corniced out. We feared that if we proceeded towards the beacon along that ridge, that the whiteout would become more intense. If we then tried to return along that route we feared someone would walk off a cornice. At that point both teams decided to descend to a safe spot below. EMR team decided to return to where the snowcat had dropped us earlier that morning, and requested transport to base. At that point in time we heard the transmission that another team had reached the three climbers. We returned to the top of the ridge. Crag Rat members were on skis and decided to try to return a different route when it was determined we could not reach the climbers to assist. The whiteout was such that the snowcat driver could not see to drive and requested a snowmobile escort.When we finally made it to base, EMR was dispatched to White River SnoPark and stood by to assist if necessary until the three climbers reached the ambulance.

PJ’s 304th Air Rescue (Air Force)
You already donate to the Air Force via your federal taxes!

PJ’s supplied a 6 person team that put in the route from Hwy 35 into timberline. We were searching at night – we started at 10 pm on snowshoes, reaching a high point of 6400 feet at 3:30 am. We dug in for the evening and started again in the morning. We were part of a team that was bringing up extra equipment including tents and rescue sleds in case of hypothermia. We were in a support position off to the side but never in contact with climbers.

Mt. Wave Communication
Mt. Wave is a 501(c)3 organization
321 SW Fourth, Suite 501
Portland, OR 97204

Mountain Wave is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides expert computer and communication resources at rescues and large emergency incidents. We respond to about 50 calls a year (1 per week!) across a 7 county area, providing emergency communications equipment, temporary radio repeaters, WiFi and Internet service at the base camp, and generally help manage the complex operations of 20 to 200 responders from 5 to 20 agencies. We have been doing this for 15 years now.

We are all volunteer, and must pay for our emergency response insurance, fuel, and constantly buy new equipment to keep up with technology. Despite great support from Nextel, Planar, and American Medical Response, our members frequently dig into their pockets to pay for the fuel to get our emergency trucks to the scene! Every dollar donated is applied to operational expenses, as we have no paid staff and no paid fund-raisers. Thank you.

Clackamas County Sheriff's Department

Washington County Sheriff's Department

Hood River County Sheriff's Department

Supplied a snow cat

Wasco County Sheriff's Department
Supplied snowmobiles

Deschutes County Sheriff Search and Rescue's-office/sheriff's-office/search-and-rescue
Monitored the situation in case they were needed.



Selected climber's comments are copied below

Three people and a dog rescued on Mt. Hood
Posts: 1472
Loc: Portland, Oregon

KB, this is not based on speculation. This is based on statements made by your friends and from information collected from the SAR/MR folks. What is so difficult about understanding that there was a serious lapse in judgment? That is not speculation. it is fact. if they knew what they were doing, then they would not have ended up where they did. Bottom line. If you carry a GPS then use it. The batteries were fine as that is how the PMR crew found the group of five originally. Even if they forgot to get a waypoint on the way up, knowing that bad weather was coming in, and bad weather goes with white-out conditions, how hard would it be to drop down 400 ft. to take a way point from the top of the Palmer? Not hard at all.

Instead they showed lack of common sense and skills necessary to be out there by trying to navigate by compass in a white-out. If they had the orienteering experience, they would have known that this is next to impossible to pull off with no fixed bearing/point to look at and use while descending. They may have been prepared with the gear, but like I said earlier, just because you have it doesn't mean it will do you a damn bit of good. In your terms, KB, if you bought a shiny new set of quickdraws, does that automatically make you able to properly lead a sport climb, or belay, or just because you have a shiny new rack, do you automatically know how to place gear, set anchors, or simul-climb with your partner? I'm just saying that they were obviously prepared, and maybe without the MLU, since they did not how to use the rest of their gear properly, they may still be up there.

But this is not about speculating and it is clear they got in over their heads because they did not follow the most basic of mountaineering principals and did not listen to the most basic warning signs regarding weather, which they admitted, they knew about.
Someday the Mountain Might get 'em but the law never will - Theme Song From Dukes of Hazard


Posts: 11501
December 16, 2006

This seems as good as any place for this. Hope some find it helpful:

Questions continue to be asked about the Mount Hood Locator Unit (MLU) after every search like this last one. Some of the media somehow still confuse them with PLBs and cell phones, and I have been asked to outline the program, so this is just to reiterate what the MLU does.

REI, OMC, and the Mountain Shop all "rent" MLU transmitters to climbers. They are also available 24 hrs a day at the Mount Hood Inn at Government Camp. The rental shops test each transmitter in front of the climber renting it. Records are kept on battery life. A $5 rental fee covers the expense of this.

The MLU program began back in 1986 in the wake of one of Mt Hood's largest tragedies, where a large group from the Oregon Episcopal School became trapped near White River Canyon, resulting in 9 deaths. It took three days to find the unmarked, buried snow cave, and by then it was too late for 7 of the kids and 2 adults.

The Mountain Signal Committee built and tested the technology, then went through the Oregon legislature to get enabling legislation to use the system. Currently the USFS and Clackamas County Sheriff control the system.

The MLU Transmitter-
MLUs are small VHF transmitters attached to a sash. When the "ripcord" is pulled and the MLU activated, it sends out a tone at 168.54 MHz. These transmitters are not monitored full-time. Once a rescue is initiated, PMR will do an initial sweep of the mountain for an MLU signal. There is a check box to say you are carrying one on the sign-in sheets at Timberline, but frequently PMR will do a scan just in case you forgot to check the box, or if you didn't register.

The MLU system is essentially a wildlife tracking system. During testing, MLU transmitters have been picked up 20 miles away. Transmitters deep in crevasses or under many feet of snow have been easily detected. However, line-of-sight rules apply. PMR can't find a signal on the opposite side of the mountain, behind a ridge, or deep in a canyon. The signal will also "bounce" off wet rock walls, making it confusing for the searcher at times.

Should you use one?
There is no doubt the MLU takes the "search" out of search and rescue. It has been used successfully in several winter operations on Mt. Hood. The technology, now 20 years old, still works well. It is not perfect, but it remains a powerful tool for PMR.

Carrying an MLU does not guarantee a rescue. Sometimes accessing your location is impossible due to weather, avalanche, rockfall, etc. However, it does allow all energy to be focused on accessing your location and getting you out of there, rather than trying to find you first, which as you have seen can take days.

Many climbers feel it is inappropriate to take technology along that replaces self-sufficiency. Many climbers do not bring cell phones with them for this reason. This is an understandable personal choice climbers make. Climbing is often viewed as an opportunity to escape society. This message is simply to let people know the MLU still does its job well, and if you wish to rent one, it is available as a tool for you to use, and will be used to find you if you get in trouble on Mt. Hood.


Doing the right thing....
John Frieh
Posts: 3700
Loc: PDX

So after a long winter of watching and waiting it appeared that the correct conditions needed to bring the Black Spider in were going to materialize on Sunday.

Marcus and I headed up on Sat so we could get a high bivy and rest our legs for Sunday's attempt.

We were cruising the ridge climbers left of the ski area when we saw something red under a large rock. Marcus pulled out his scope and we glassed it for a few minutes...
too large to be a backpack.

F---... do you think?

It had to be one of the bodies from the first accident this year.

So what do you do?

The black spider comes in maybe once or twice a winter. More people have climbed Yocum ridge than the Spider.

So what do you do?

You do the right thing... You go check it out. You take care of your own.

We descended 500' to find two red backpacks + a mini yard sale of gear. No bodies. The packs had been left end to end giving the appearance from a distance that it was a body in the fetal position.

At first we thought it was abandoned gear from the north side accident... we started looking around for birds (old mountain rescue trick... where there are birds there is
usually a body). No birds...

We started looking for ID in the packs and I found this:

F---!. But relief. But still: f----. We just wasted an hour and 1000' of travel to find someone's garbage. F---..

So off we sped back up hill to try and make up for lost time. We made it to about 8.1k before the predicted storm rolled in so we settled in and hoped we could make up the lost distance in the morning. But you know how it turns out... the storm lasted till 6 am (as predicted) and we both knew our window had expired as we couldn't make up for lost time. No black spider. Again. Next year I guess.

We rolled back down hill to the yard sale.

Marcus and I were able to easily see the parking lot from the location of the jettisoned gear.

Each balancing an expedition size backpack on our head in addition to each carrying our gear from our black spider attempt (30 lbs each) on our back we were able to cover the distance from the recovery spot to the parking lot in 45 minutes post holing the whole way. 45 minutes to the parking lot.

It sucked... my neck still hurts... but it was the right thing to do.

So the unpopular part...

I don't know how to say this without making it sound like a personal attack... it's not my intention. But based on the larger ramifications (required MLUs) of this event + the
north face triple fatality I feel the need to speak my piece.

Based on:
- the location of the found gear
- the TR describing the ordeal
- the contents of the gear
- the presence of the gear on the mountain this long after the event
it is apparent this team did not have the technical skill or knowledge to be on the mountain this time of year.

- There are safer, more accessible locations than Illumination rock in winter that exist to learn the art of snow caving
- Understand that when NOAA predicts 80% PoP that it translates loosely into "f---ing nuking"
- Map and compass skills are not optional or designated to just one person. Everyone should have taken a compass bearing and conferred as a team.
- Everyone should have self arrest skills. Looking at the "cliff" the leader fell off it should have been easily caught/self arrested by the team... not the entire team going over.
- Having a GPS coordinate marking the parking lot as well as at Silcox and the top of Magic Mile would have prevented all of this as well as told one how close one was to
the parking lot.
- Clean your garbage up off the mountain as quickly as humanly possible especially if other un-recovered bodies on the mountain still exist. I lost my attempt doing the right thing while you were busy drinking pints at the lucky lab.

I hope anyone considering Hood anytime in the future makes sure they have the skill and knowledge to avoid making these same mistakes and not having to rely on a MLU or a cell phone. It would be the right thing to do.

If you feel you need an MLU and/or cell phone for the "just in case" situation perhaps you should reevaluate your objective and skill set.

I think it is awesome the group has been raising money for PMR.

But what about the rest of us? What about the rest of the climbing community? What do we get out of the deal? As far as I can tell decreased access and new laws to
adhere to.

I would like to see some of the money raised be donated to the access fund so they can attempt to fight the proposed MLU requirement.

I think it would be the right thing to do.


Most recent Mt. Hood Accident [Re: John Frieh]

ryland_moore ryland_moore
Posts: 1498

Loc: Portland, Oregon Why would they leave gear on the mountain at all? They obviously walked off under their own power and had plenty of help with PMR. Why would
they not go back up and retrieve it? What were they doing Saturday that would prevent a hike up there? Weather was stellar! Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? I cannot
speculate as to them being prepared, as that may not have been all of their gear they took up with them, but it is sad to treat a mountain environment with leaving such
trash up there for someone else to find and haul off. I feel sorry for the kids of these teachers. The thing that concerns me even more is that some of these group members
are teachers. Meaning, they have a responsibility, as everyone should, to practice what they preach. Do you think they allow their students to just throw trash on the ground when on a field trip or coming back from lunch? Leaving gear up there and not returning to get it is bad juju. Thanks guys for hauling it off yourselves. You will be rewarded, I am sure. Now you just sealed a nice weather window for you on Black Spider in the future......

I'd say this is free booty and whatever gear is there is now yours. Keep it ort sell it on Craig's list.
Someday the Mountain Might get 'em but the law never will - Theme Song From Dukes of Hazard




Oregon House Bill 2509 opposed by Mountain Rescue Units

March 23, 2007

All of the mountain rescue organizations in the State of Oregon oppose HB2509
These organizations include:
Portland Mountain Rescue
Eugene Mountain Rescue
Corvallis Mountain Rescue
Deschutes County SAR
Hood River Crag Rats

Additionally, the Mountain Rescue Association, which represents over 90 mountain rescue teams through out North America, opposes HB 2509.

The Mt Hood Search and Rescue Council, which represents all the agencies and resource groups on Mt Hood, opposes HB 2509.

Oregon Mountain Rescue Council, the organization recognized by the Oregon State Sheriffs Association as the accreditation body for mountain rescue teams in Oregon, opposes HB2509.

The Mazamas, a non-profit mountaineering education organization representing over 3000 climbers, opposes HB2509.

We believe a law requiring climbers to carry electronic devices will have unintended consequences that will increase the risk to both climbers and rescuers. Additionally, when the state mandates specific equipment it gives the climber a false sense of security. The climber will be more likely to take greater risks because they believe that since the state has required a “beacon” they are entitled to a rescue.

For example, in February, the eight climbers lost on Mt. Hood had beacons, GPS and a compass. When rescuers got to them they walked out on their own. The media portrayed this as great example of the value of the MLU. Our analysis leads us to conclude that they were relying on the rescuers to save them when the incident could have been completely avoided had the climbers known how to properly use their compass and GPS. Self reliance in the mountains is essential for survival, HB2509 will not cause climbers to be more self-reliant. In fact we believe that this law will lead to more reliance on the rescuers.

House Bill 2509 was conceived by a representative as an emotional response to the families of the lost climbers on Mt. Hood. While these people have good intentions, they do not understand issues involving climbers and rescuers on Mt. Hood.

The mountain rescue community is in the best position to understand these issues and help craft effective solutions. We are already actively working on solutions in conjunction with the Governor’s Search and Rescue Task Force and we welcome all opportunities to keep Oregon a wonderful and safe place to enjoy our mountains.

A vote in favor of this bill will be against the advice of the entire mountain rescue community in this state and in the nation

We ask you to vote NO on House bill 2509


PMR Statement on MLU's and PLB's
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Portland Mountain Rescue’s (PMR) mission is to save lives through rescue and mountain safety education. For the past 30 years, PMR has been readily available to search for lost backcountry travelers, assist injured climbers, and provide other ‘safety-net’ services for outdoor enthusiasts who have made a miscalculation about mountain conditions or had an accident. Recent rescue missions have attracted national headlines and inspired some members of the Oregon State Legislature to sponsor House Bill 2509 that would require climbers, on Mount Hood, to carry a two-way device (cell-phone or walkie-talkie) and a Mountain Locator Unit (MLU) / Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) if climbing over 10,000 feet.

House Bill 2509 has generated much discussion in the mountaineering and mountain rescue communities alike. Many of these organizations believe that the focus of the legislation is somewhat misguided. Safe mountaineering requires skill, planning, humility and common sense; and many feel that requiring the use of MLUs/PLBs will diminish the value for learning the skills required to travel safely in the backcountry or above timberline.

PMR agrees that MLUs/PLBs can make it easier to locate lost individuals in some situations and we would prefer that more parties carry them. However, we believe the emphasis should be on the front-end of a climber’s experience in the outdoors: education. As part of that education process an aspiring climber should become familiar with the use of a map and compass, global positioning systems (GPS), MLU/PLB, a cell-phone or other devices that could assist in finding one’s location.

PMR foresees three potential and unfortunate outcomes if House Bill 2509 were to pass:
1. Devalues safety education – By providing climbers with a false sense of security we have devalued the motivation to develop the proper safe traveling skills and planning for unexpected situations, thus leading to more rescues.
2. More danger for rescuers - It will place volunteer rescuers in more danger by fostering an unrealistic expectation that carrying government-mandated equipment entitles climbers to rescue regardless of unsafe conditions.
3. Delayed rescue calls – Search and rescue experts indicate that if penalties exist for stranded or injured climbers, who do not carry an MLU/PLB, they often delay calling. This results in further danger for the stranded or injured party and the rescuers alike.

PMR believes the emphasis should be on education that MLUs/PLBs are available for climbers to use, along with other navigational devices, instead of misguiding the public by mandating those devices as the “silver bullet” to address an undefined problem.



Fran Sharp; President (Tacoma, Washington)
Charley Shimanski; Vice President (Evergreen, Colorado)


Rescue Leaders Say Mandating Safety Equipment May Actually INCREASE Number of Search and Rescue Operations
(March 21, 2007) — The Mountain Rescue Association urges the Oregon State Legislature to postpone indefinitely House Bill (HB) 2509, which requires mountaineers to carry specific electronic equipment.

1. Rescue mountaineers nationwide believe that legislation pertaining to any backcountry activity and the rescues of lost or injured backcountry users
should be deliberate, and;

2. should include detailed planning meetings with the backcountry user group as well as the mountain rescue community.
The Mountain Rescue Association feels that Oregon’s HB 2509 has been neither deliberate nor included such important meetings, particularly with the rescue community that serves Mt. Hood.

State and Federal lawmakers do have a duty to respond to public calls for action, but they also have a duty to the emergency medical service providers in the community. While Oregon’s HB 2509 responds to a public call for action, its path through the Oregon General Assembly appears to not include detailed planning meetings with the mountain rescue community or the mountain climbing community.

While HB 2509 has public support, the public appears to be unaware of the dangerous unintended consequences that this legislation may create – consequences that could actually increase the number of rescue operations, thereby putting the rescue community in greater risk.
Under Oregon law, individuals can be fined for reckless behavior that results in search and/or rescue operations. Ironically, Oregon’s HB 2509 could actually increase the number of search and rescue operations on Mt. Hood.

The MRA agrees with Portland Mountain Rescue assessment that HB 2509 could foster “an unrealistic expectation that carrying government-mandated equipment entitles climbers to rescue.” We also share the concern of North America’s oldest organized mountain rescue team, Oregon’s “Crag Rats,” who believe that, “A hurried review in the middle of a legislative session is neither sufficient nor appropriate.”

About the Mountain Rescue Association
The Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) is "a volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives through rescue and mountain safety education." The MRA, established in 1958 at Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Oregon, is the oldest Search and Rescue association in the United States.
With over 90 government authorized units in the US, Canada and other countries, the MRA has grown to become the critical mountain search and rescue resource in the United States. The large majority of our membership is made up of unpaid professional volunteers who have been fully accredited in Mountain Search and Rescue operations. For more information, go to

Note: HB 2509 died in the Oregon Senate. --Robert Speik



OpEd: Electronic locator beacons, a mountaineers viewpoint

Published as a Guest Editorial
The Bulletin

Robert Speik
Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bulletin Reporter James Sinks broke the news that House Bill 2509 might require “mountain climbers” and guides to carry an electronic beacon when they venture above the treeline on Mt. Hood.

A controversy erupted between experienced mountaineers and those who would reduce government costs by controlling irresponsible thrill seekers asking for expensive search and rescue efforts while endangering volunteers.

According to an Oregon State report climbing accounts for 3.4% of rescues, mushroom picking 3.0%, hiking 13.8%, vehicle, ATVs, snowmobiles 20.5%. Enough said.

Bulletin Reporter Lily Raff wrote about the controversy in an excellent in-depth nine column front page Sunday Perspective: “Locator Beacons, Lifesavers or Unnecessary?”

Lawmakers recalled the 1986 Episcopal School Tragedy where seven teens and two adults died in an unmarked snow cave while for days searchers combed the broad snow slopes of Mt. Hood. The leaders had made many common sense basic mountaineering errors. This tragedy led to the invention of the electronic Mountain Locator Unit (MLU).

For ten days in December last year, the world’s media focused on the plight of three experienced mountain climbers missing in a storm near the summit of Mt. Hood. Two of the three north face winter ice climbers may have fallen, stranding Kelly James. He called his home in Texas using his cell phone, triggering the rescue effort. Days later, when the weather cleared, searchers quickly found Kelly who had died from hypothermia shortly after his one phone call. Kelly did not call 911 for rescue.

In February, eight adventurers challenged Mt. Hood by climbing north up the snow slope from the parking lot to Illumination Saddle to camp in two snow caves. The next morning, while descending the easy slopes in a forecast snowstorm, three became separated from their five companions. Very poor navigation had led them 90 degrees east to a steeper snow slope. Three slid down uncontrolled, abandoned two of their backpacks and then hiked for forty minutes until forced to spend the night ill equipped and un-prepared. They called for rescue. Searchers found them next morning, inexcusably wet, cold, hungry and thirsty. The group committed a comedy of mountaineering errors.

Note that they called rescuers every hour by cell phone. None of the three had their personal GPS to report their exact position or to find the nearby parking lot. However, searchers easily figured out where they were from their phoned information.

By chance, one of the two rented MLUs among the eight climbers was with the group of three. Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) used the Mountain Locator Unit system. Searchers commented that the MLU was “hard to use and not very precise”.

PMR advocates the use of electronic communications with GPS receivers but does not believe the State should require anyone to use “electronic signaling devices”.

The following is my observation, speaking from the experience of a traditionally trained mountaineer.

First, a rescue does not begin until a Responsible Person calls 911 if the adventurer does not return by an agreed time.

Second, when a person becomes stranded due to illness or injury to themselves or others, or if they become lost, or are forced to overnight or shelter from a storm, it may be better to phone for help then, rather than waiting for the Responsible Person to call 911 hours or days later. Experience tells me to have this option.

MLUs: Mt. Hood Mountain Locator Units are simple radio transmitters. They are managed by Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, which is liable for maintenance, battery replacement, rental and user instruction.

Note that MLUs require a separate radio or phone call to 911 before any search begins. They are only available on Mt. Hood.

PLBs: A better option is the Personal Locator Beacon. These strong radios broadcast a signal to satellites that is relayed to the local County Sheriff often within five minutes with GPS Latitude and Longitude coordinates. They cost about $450 at local stores and do not require a subscription. The batteries last for years. They weigh a reasonable 12 ounces. Serious backcountry adventurers may want to own one.

SATs: A third option is a Satellite Cell Phone. These units work like a PLB, but you can verbally send your GPS coordinates and chat. They are heavy, expensive and require a monthly subscription.

Walkie-talkie radios are a low cost option, but someone must be listening.

Best option: Your own everyday Cell Phone and your simple $100 GPS.

A good cell phone is FREE with a $10 or also a $20 per month, two-year subscription including 200 free monthly minutes. One can call for help and give their very accurate GPS coordinates.

My friends choose to bring their own cell phones, GPS receivers, base plate compasses, USGS topo maps, and the knowledge of how to use them together. The cost of a quality map, compass and GPS is $136.

Robert Speik pursues an active retirement while writing for




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


Read more . . .
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 as approved on March 28, 2007
Mount Hood - Three climbers, their MLU and a dog rescued on Mt. Hood
Mount Hood - Veteran climber injured during ice axe arrest on Mt Hood
Mount Hood - Climber injured by falling ice, rescued by helicopter
Mount Hood - Three climbers die on the North West Face
Mount Hood - Solo climber falls from Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - Climbing accident claims three lives -Final Report and our Analysis 
Mount Hood - Notable mountain climbing accidents Analyzed 
Mount Hood - Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Mount Hood - Solo climber slides into the Bergschrund and is found the following day
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - Experienced climbers rescued from emergency snow cave
Mount Hood - A personal description of the south side route
Mount Hood - Fatal avalanche described by Climbing Ranger
Mount Hood - Avalanche proves fatal for members of Mazamas climbing group
Mount Hood - Snowboard rider dies on Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - Fatal fall on snow, Cooper Spur Route
Mount Hood - Fatal fall on snow from the summit
Mount Hood - Climb shows the need for knowledge
Mount Hood - Climb ends in tragedy
Mount Hood - Rescue facilitated by use of a VHF radio


Lost and Found
Oregon State Search and Rescue Statues   six PDF pages
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
Longacre Expeditions teen group rescued from the snowdrifts above Todd Lake
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

Real Survival Strategies
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

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

 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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