Mission 04-07
Mt. Washington Recovery

by Bob Freund

Member hours: 69.       Member miles: 970.
Participants: J. Linn, N. Vitagliano, J. Wood, L. Clunes, I. Morris, B. Freund, A. Lee, J. Killian


Base with Blackhawk coming in.

On Wednesday, July 28th, two Goldendale, Washington, men attempted to climb “the most difficult route” on Mt. Washington (or at least that is what they told friends before leaving). One was 47 years old and had been climbing 15 years and the other was 50 years old and had been climbing for 20 years. When they did not return as planned on Thursday, family members began calling on Friday to try to locate them. Shortly after midnight on Saturday, July 31st, the Unit was activated by a pageout.

Aaron and Jason W.

Bob deep in thought, planning strategy

Six members of the Unit staged at Ray Benson Sno-Park at 0800. Members of the Camp Sherman Hasty Team had arrived at 0600 and were hiking to the mountain. A helicopter from the 1042nd arrived about 0830 and surveyed the mountain without sighting anything before departing to refuel in Redmond.

We were joined by three members of Eugene Mountain Rescue (Steve, Brian, and Don) and developed a plan to search the highest parts of the mountain while Linn County Posse searched trails on horseback. ESAR Post members carried evacuation equipment into the west bowl and eventually went up on the toe of the West Ridge.

Iain, Nate and a member of Eugene Mountain Rescue approach the helicopter

Iain straps in. He helps with communication and handling gear, staying in the helicopter during the recovery.
Photos taken by Iain, from the helicopter, are available here.

Nate prepares to be lowered to the ground.
At about 1015, members of the Camp Sherman team located both subjects beneath the West Face. Neither had survived what appeared to be a significant “leader fall” which dislodged the belayer. The mission changed from search to recovery. While Camp Sherman set about dealing with the accident scene and packaging the two subjects, plans were made with the helicopter crew to ferry equipment and personnel as high on the mountain as possible. The training we had earlier with the 1042nd paid dividends as three Unit members were taken in the “bird.” Two were “tandem-hoisted” onto the mountain (about 200 yards away from the accident site) while the third Unit member remained onboard to assist the crew chief with the litter and equipment as it was delivered and later recovered. Iain remained on the helicopter and was given a headset so he had full communications capability with the aircrew while Nate and Lindsay were inserted by hoist.

The helicopter made its delivery to the mountain and returned to Base while the litter was loaded and brought back to the “hoist” point. The whole recovery was over by about 1300. By 1600 all personnel had returned from the field, and by 1645 the gates to Ray Benson Sno-Park were again closed and locked.

The men's final route was on this wall.

View from helicopter
Having a common radio frequency for use by all resources (ground teams and the helicopter) greatly facilitated the smooth operation of this mission. Using Ray Benson Sno-Park as a Command Post and Staging location works very well – especially being able to “close off” one of the five hard-surfaced parking areas and designating it as a Landing Zone for the helicopter.

Photos courtesy of Lindsay Clunes