Tourist Falls on Mt. Jefferson

by Bob Freund

Mission Report 92-07
Member Hours: 193
Miles: 1,195

At 1530 on Tuesday, August 16, while descending on a day-hike of Mt. Jefferson's southwest ridge, Gabriela Klassen of Bochum, Germany, stepped onto a snow patch and slid about 50 feet. Unable to control her fall, she slid off the bottom of the snow patch, striking rocks, and suffering thoracic injuries. Shortly before the accident other members of the party of four had advised her not to venture out onto the snow. While her boy friend, Rayner, remained with her, the other two descended from the accident site (8600 ft.) to their car at Pamelia Lake Trailhead (3100 ft.) and drove to the nearest telephone in Marion Forks. Their call was received in the Stayton 911 center at 2002 and was relayed to Marion County Sheriff. A MCSO deputy was dispatched to interview the reporting party. Shortly thereafter, MCSO realized the incident was in Linn County and LCSO was notified at 2027.
Two climbers descending at about 1600 gave equipment and food to Gabriela and Rayner to ease their overnight stay on the mountain. At sometime during the early morning hours, an Outward Bound patrol happened upon the two. They provided sleeping bags and packaged Gabriela with foam pads.
CMRU was notified by Jim Swinyard (Benton Co. Emergency Services) at 2115 and a pageout was conducted at 2120. Corvallis area personnel with the truck departed at 2300 and arrived at base camp (Pamelia Lake Trailhead) around 0100 Wednesday, August 17. We received a briefing and assignment, packed medical and light evacuation gear, and eight CMRU members were on the trail at 0200. ESAR Post 64 had a team accompanied by the reporting party about an hour ahead of CMRU. Posse members arrived to transport heavier rescue gear by horse to the base of the mountain.
After seven hours ascending the southwest ridge, CMRU personnel reached the patient. During the ascent, it became clear that evacuation down the southwest ridge was most undesirable so plans were developed to evacuate via the south ridge and Mud Hole Lake. Facing a possible lengthy ground evacuation, additional resources were requested. Eugene Mountain Rescue was activated.
An H-60 helicopter from 304th RQS arrived in the area shortly before 0900 and was able to insert two PJ's. It was decided to repackage and hoist the patient directly rather than evacuate to a landing zone lower on the mountain. By 1004 the patient and PJ's were back aboard the helicopter and it was enroute to Portland. A KC-130 from the 939th Rescue Wing had been orbiting Mt. Jefferson and refuelled the H-60 while enroute to Portland.
From on the mountain, radio contact was made with Eugene team members enroute to base camp to advise them the patient had been evacuated by helicopter and that the mission was terminated. CMRU and Post 64 personnel spend the next five hours descending the ridge. Once at the Pacific Crest Trail, they were met by Posse members with sack lunches and additional water. Rescue equipment which had been staged at Mud Hole Lake was recovered by the Posse. Shortly after 1700 all CMRU personnel had returned to base camp, and following a short rest period, members returned home.
Coordination, teamwork, and mutual support between the various groups involved in this mission was exemplary. Some lessons learned or relearned:
  1. If anticipating helicopter services, eye protection such as goggles or glasses with side shields should be carried -- especially if working on loose soil or scree. Ear protection should be carried by all Unit members.
  2. The 939th Rescue Wing's KC-130 has the capability to communicate on the State SAR radio frequency (155.805 MHz). Their signal is much clearer than the helicopter's temporary VHF-FM radio. Perhaps the KC-130 could be used to establish a communication channel to the helicopter.
  3. Although this patient was on scree, if a ground evacuation was done, making use of snow patches would ease the task; but with the "bullet proof" snow found on the mountain, crampons would be necessary for anyone venturing onto the snow.

Participants: Jeremy Adolf, Dan DeBrito, Bill Ellison, Bob Freund, Mardi Keltner, Mike McCann, Ken Parton, Susan Leach, Maryanne Reiter

Photo by Ken Parton