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Climber rescued from South Sister's east side route

Climber rescued from South Sister's east side route
Location: Approximately 1/2 mile North West of Green Lake
Elevation: Approximately 7,400 feet
By Lt. Scott Shelton, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Search and Rescue Coordinator

Injured Hiker: Kelly, Ryan 20 years of age, Bend, Oregon
Hiking Partners: Snider, Nicholas 18 years of age, and Taylor, James 23 years of age, both of Bend Oregon

On September 5, 2012 at approximately 5:30 p.m., 9-1-1 Dispatch received a 911 call from Snider who reported that one of his climbing partners “Kelly” had fallen while descending from the summit of South Sister and was unable to walk. Kelly indicated that he and the 3rd climbing partner “Taylor” were attempting to help their injured climbing partner back to their base camp located near Green Lake. Snider further advised that in order to obtain cell coverage he had left Taylor and Kelly at a location approximately a ½ mile from Green Lake. The area that the remaining two climbers were located was in steep terrain on a screed field. Snider advised that he was returning to the location of Kelly and Taylor after the call and that he was transporting additional food/water and some warm clothes. Once Snider completed this trip he would return to base camp at Green Lake and wait for SAR team member’s to respond.

Initially 12 Deschutes County Search and Rescue team members responded to the area of Green Lakes. The first Search and Rescue Medical team arrived in the area of the base camp at approximately 9:40 pm. Snider attempted to lead this team to location of Kelly, however due to darkness and the climbing party not having a GPS to provide an accurate location of the injured hiker the rescue quickly turned into a search.

Additional Search Teams arrived in the area at approximately 11:25 and deployed in a search pattern. An Air Link helicopter was requested and responded to the area to assist with the search for Kelly and Taylor. At the time the air search was conducted Kelly and Taylor had no light source available to them and Air Link was not able to locate the 2 climbers. Ground search teams located Kelly and Taylor at approximately 2:17 am.

Search and Rescue Medical team members quickly began assessing and treating Kelly and insure that Taylor was also cared for. A request was made to Life Flight was requested to respond to fly the injured hiker from the location due to his injuries. Life Flight pilots made an assessment at 3:35 am that conditions were too dangerous at the location due to darkness and the unknown terrain to land. Kelly, Taylor and Search Team members remained at a number of locations until day light to reassess the possibilities of a ground extraction of Kelly.

At 3:35 Teams were located at the location of injured hiker, below the injured hiker approximately 1000 yards and a ground team and horse team were located at the hiker’s base camp at Green Lake. Additional ground support and Deschutes County Search and Rescue Mountain Rescue Team responded to the area and a plan was developed that would to extricate Kelly by ground to the medical assistance.

Approximate estimates of the extraction time via a ground route were 12-16 hours and would require technical expertise of the Mountain Rescue Team. As these plans were being developed that included requesting mutual assistance from the other mountain rescue teams throughout Oregon a second attempting was being made by Life Flight to locate a suitable landing area near the injured hiker. At approximately 7:25 am Life Flight located an established Landing Zone area that had been identified by Search and Rescue team members in the general vicinity of Kelly. Kelly was transported by Life Flight to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend with non-life threatening injuries.

Deschutes County Search and Rescue Teams all returned to Bend at approximately 1:30 pm on the 7th of September. A debriefing of the hikers indicated that they were returning to their base camp near Green Lake when Kelly lost his footing and slid down an ice field 100-200 feet and struck a number of boulders. The hiking party had limited equipment and one cell phone with only a small amount of battery life at the time of the incident. Deschutes County Sheriffs of Search and Rescue want to remind all recreational users to be prepared for the unexpected. Additionally incidents like these are not quickly resolved and rescue often takes many more hours than would be expected. Search teams needed approximately 4 hours from the time they left Bend to reach the location of the injure hiker in this incident. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office e Search and Rescue team deployed 26 Search and Rescue Volunteers, 4 Deputies and 2 Helicopters to this incident.



What can be learned from this interesting incident?

We have been unable to talk to the injured climber or his companions. Federal HIPPA privacy laws prevent medical personnel, including SAR Volunteer Units, from providing contact information for patients. If Ryan Kelly will contact us, we will correct any inaccuracies in our analysis. 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 other climbers.

The "Climbers Way" to and from the summit of South Sister from Green Lakes is an adventure route that joins the south side climbers trail up and down the last 1,000 feet of elevation gain to above 10,000 feet. The friable volcanic rocks are covered with small gravel of scree, and slips and falls will claim the tired, hasty, uninformed, unwary and careless. A snow field often last through September. It is tempting to glissade, but dangerous without a helmet, ice axe and the skills to slow and stop a slide at 30 MPH. When a leg is injured, there is a problem. It can take an agonizing ten hours to hobble down to the trail head and the car. If it is Summer, water and bonking may become a serious problem. If it is Fall or Winter, water, bonking and hypothermia can create a life threatening situation. A companion returned from their camp with the required extra insulating clothing layers that they should have carried in their day packs on this adventure route.

It may be vital to call for Rescue. How can you communicate? Get some one to descend to the trail head and drive back to a pay phone? In 1997, few local citizens had cell phones. Cell phones were not Essential to backcountry travel. Kelly's friend had to descend to Green Lakes to find a clear cell phone connection to the cell towers on the summit of Mt. Bachelor.

Please note the timeline: The injury was called in to 911 at 5:30 pm. The first Rescuers arrived at about 11:30 pm and the civilian helicopter arrived at 3:35 am. The helicopter rescue was not initiated until about 7:25 am.

"Deschutes County Search and Rescue Teams all returned to Bend at approximately 1:30 pm on the 7th of September. A debriefing of the hikers indicated that they were returning to their base camp near Green Lake when Kelly lost his footing and slid down an ice field 100-200 feet and struck a number of boulders. The hiking party had limited equipment and one cell phone with only a small amount of battery
life at the time of the incident. Deschutes County Sheriffs of Search and Rescue want to remind all recreational users to be prepared for the unexpected. Additionally incidents like these are not quickly resolved and rescue often takes many more hours than would be expected. Search teams needed approximately 4 hours from the time they left Bend to reach the location of the injure hiker in this incident. The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office e Search and Rescue team deployed 26 Search and Rescue Volunteers, 4 Deputies and 2 Helicopters to this incident." This is an excellent paragraph from DCSSAR's Lt. Scott Shelton.


Times have changed!

Ordinary cell phone coverage has improved, year by year, to the time of this writing in 2012 - see below for "The Rest of the Story". Check your own cell coverage in your favorite backcountry areas. Much of the high desert and the Three Sisters Wilderness is covered by Verizon using CDMA code. The cell phones from other (urban) providers are not able to "see" CDMA towers and will not connect.

Cell communication equipment used by many Providers is located on the top of Mt. Bachelor. If you can see the summit, you should have good cell phone communications. If you are in a hollow or behind a ridge, just move a few feet! However, without contact with other towers, a geographic location can not be triangulated for 911 use and an accurate location can not be fixed.

The cell tower array at the top of Mt. Bachelor may have been blocked by the east ridge of the mountain. and two cell towers are needed to enable the required triangulation to provide the FCC required geographic Coordinants to find a patient on a topo map. We believe that a second Verizon tower covers the Green Lakes area. A good cell phone signal with the right Provider can take the Search out of Search and Rescue.

Each person in a group should carry their own simple personal cell phone.

Map, compass and GPS together

Back country travelers should carry a base plate declination adjustable compass costing $25.00 a $7.00 topo map annotated with the UTM Geographic Coordinant Grid and simple current model Garmin GPS costing as little as $100.00.. A stranded person can take the search out of SAR by simply reading the UTM Geographic Coordinants to the Incident Commander over the cell phone. Consider a $100.00  SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger if cell phone towers may not cover the area you plan to explore.

Read below for some basic suggestions about how to Be Prepared in 2012. Basic Responsibilities and the Ten Essential Systems.

Google each one of these three search phrases:    Best Compass for backcountry     Best topo maps for backcountry     Best GPS for backcountry use    Best cell phone for backcountry use

Millions of ordinary people world wide, use a common $100.00 hand held Garmin eTrex GPS with a topomap and color screen, for geocaching, hiking, hunting, cross country skiing, etc. Most GPS receivers have at least 14 hours of continuous life on two new batteries. 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.


The rest of the story

Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue Volunteer Coordinator Al Hornish, a 12 year veteran of DCSAR, stated the following in an interview published on January 26, 2012 in the Bend Oregon Source Weekly: "We have grown a lot over the past decade. The nature of missions has changed as well." "There are more Rescues and less Searches, mostly because of the better technology available." Read More. --Robert Speik, January 26, 2012.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, or nearly four months since my fall off Mount Temple. After so much time, there is much to dwell on. The negatives: the pain of so many fractures, the sleeplessness, the drugs and the messed up things they do to you. It’s easy to get stuck in the negative; yet some part of me is drawn there by some morbid fascination.

How big am I then? Not very. I made a mistake, a pretty small mistake. Or more honestly, I made a series of pretty small mistakes. I almost died for these transgressions. I would have died if it had not been for a cell phone and the chain of events it was able to put into motion. (I’ve owned a cell phone for barely six years.) I might not have died that very day, March 25, 2010, but from where we were, we were a long, long way from the medical care my injuries demanded: a trained trauma surgeon in an Emergency Room. Perhaps I would have lasted one night. Maybe not. It changes my perspective about what a day means. Carpe diem no longer seems some frat-boy cry to party. Today, means everything. --Steve House


Here are some Basic suggestions for each backcountry travelers

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!  Ten Essential Systems

3. Carry your fully charged digital cell phones and periodically check where they can communicate with any cell towers to assist authorities in triangulating your position from cell tower pings. (Most cell providers do not use internal cell phone GPS radio signals to locate customers under FCC E911 regulations - they use triangulation). Cold disables batteries. Use Lithium batteries all year around. If the weather is cold, carry the cell phone in a pants pocket near the femoral artery. Report your UTM NAD27 coordinates from your quad topo maps and you GPS, your condition, the conditions where you are and discuss your plans with SAR.  Ordinary Cell Phones   If you are adventurous and often may be out of cell tower range, carry a $100.00 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


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 Carboration and Hydration
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  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  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) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
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Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
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Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"