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Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers

The Bend Bulletin
By Barney Lerten
August 16, 1999

A Washington state scoutmaster and his 14-year-old son never really considered themselves lost - not with two compasses and a cellular phone.

But the problems they encountered during their climb in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area led to a day-long search Sunday that, involved 40 volunteers, an airplane, five horses and two mules.

'Unfortunately, we were about 80 percent of the way toward being prepared," said Robert: Perkins, a professor in administrative management at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Perkins, 42, and his son; Matthew, an Eagle Scout candidate, walked out to safety Sunday night and spent the night in a Bend motel before heading home today.

The duo planned a day hike Saturday of the Three Sisters, but weather conditions prompted them to scale back their plans.

It was very foggy on Saturday as the duo hiked up Middle Sister, making it hard to see any signs. On their way down, lingering deep snow in the area made it hard to make out the trails or any trail signs, Perkins said.

"Coming down, I thought I was hanging to the ridge, but I must have stuck to a different ridge," Perkins said. "We came down on the north side of Middle Sister, and I thought it was the east side."

The fog and later the snow made it hard for the hikers to get their bearings. They found a patch of ground near a stream to spend the night Saturday. A stream they tried following to lower ground ended abruptly.

Perkins' multipurpose watch was equipped with a compass, barometer and altimeter, but the compass apparently was 28 degrees off true north. And they couldn't find Matthew's packed compass until Sunday.

That led to a frustrating search by the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Unit.

Perkins said Monday they mistakenly headed out without any matches. He also wished he'd brought along a sleeping bag for the unexpected chilly night out.

Perkins was unable to use the cell phone, to call out Saturday night. He got through Sunday to 911 dispatchers in Lane County, but, the transmission broke up. Perkins left two messages on his voice mail, in Ellensburg that were retrieved by his wife, Mary, camping in Central Oregon with their daughter.

The mixed signals led searchers, in one direction several times while the pair headed in another.

"He kept telling people he thought he knew where he was and he was going to do this; and it was a wild goose chase," said 'sheriff's spokesman Rick Meyers.

Meyers said the search was launched after Lane County 911 relayed the call because temperatures were due to drop below freezing again Sunday night and the pair had little food and water.

Rescuers say one of the basic outdoor lessons is to stay put if one gets lost, but Perkins said, "That would not have been a good suggestion at that point. At no time did I feel I was in jeopardy or anything."

Meyers said Perkins probably won't be billed for the search expenses, so as not to discourage people from calling in if they are in trouble in the woods.

"This guy was just caught up in a comedy of errors," Meyers said.


Webmeister's note: Backcountry navigation is a learned skill. There is more to it than knowing which way is generally North.

"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 information, training, interesting gear and knowledge gained through the experiences of others."
 --Bob Speik


Warning: Traditional Mountaineering is an inherently dangerous sport!





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