Injured Climber on Mt. Washington
by Bob Freund
Mission Report 97-09
Member-hours: 261 Miles: 1505
At about 1030 on Saturday 20 September 97, a 46 year old male fell about 10feet while leading the fourth pitch at the bottom of the West Ridge on Mt. Washington. He was far enough above his protection that it did not stopthe fall before he landed on the ledge near his belayer - reportedly fracturing his ankle. The party of four left one climber with the injured secured to the mountain and used their two climbing ropes to rappel off and go for help -- stranding the injured climber and his companion. While they had bivy bags they did not have insulating clothing below their waists. Fortunately this night the freezing level was 14,000 feet.
CMRU was paged at 1543 and an activation page was sent at 1623. Most Unit members were at the annual Ice Practice on Mt. Hood. Initially, four members who were not on Mt. Hood responded and members were recalled from Mt. Hood.
Five members of Jefferson Co. SAR along with two Mazama climb leaderswere dispatched at 1930 to locate, access, and assess the patient and his companion. They arrived at the bottom of the West Ridge and about 0200 were forced to back off due to darkness and snow/ice on the route they were taking.
With the arrival of CMRU's truck and Linn County ESAR and Posse, two CMRU members were assigned to accompany the gear into an advanced base camp put into the West Bowl and have ESAR personnel carry the gear as high toward the West Ridge as they could. Members of Jefferson County's team ferried the gear the rest of the way. The plan was to have gear and personnel at the bottom of the West Ridge by first light on Sunday. CMRU members responding from Mt. Hood were allowed a couple hours of sleep before being dispatched into the field.
At first light, eight Unit members and gear as well as five from Jefferson Co. were on the West Ridge at the base of the climb. The stranded pair was spotted and Jefferson Co. climbed to them to assess and stabilize the medical problem(s). The injured leg was splinted and the patient said he was capable of rappelling off the buttress by himself. The Jefferson Co. personnel allowed him and his companion to do so. Once off the rock, however, it was necessary to descend 1200 feet of scree to reach a spot where the Posse's horses could be used forevacuation. The patient was packaged in a SKED and CMRU proceeded to lower him 600 feet with a standard (belayed) lowering system and then transferred through another station and continued lowering the final 600 feet. The patient was then removed from the SKED. He was able to ride a horse outthe Pacific Crest Train to Big Lake. CMRU equipment and members were out of the field by 1700. Following a rest period, short critique and gear sort, CMRU departed base camp at 1900 enroute home.
Several additional notes:
- During this mission or in the two days immediately prior, all but two of thefield personnel had experienced moderate to severe "flu-like symptoms" which adversely effected their physical condition.
- On the Monday following this mission, Jon, Mardi, Doug McGuire, and Rod spent several hours at the truck -- checking ropes, and restowing equipment.
The injured climber sustained a fractured calcaneus (heel bone) and will be undergoing surgery.
Participating Members: Dagata, Freund, Gent, Greenwood, Harney, Helmrich, Keltner, Lacer, Leach, Ruef, Sears, and observing were Matt Jarvis and Preston VanMeter.
Phographer: Angela Helmrich