PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A rescue mission to Three Fingered Jack on Aug. 14 saved the lives of two climbers, including one suffering from life-threatening hypothermia, who were stuck on the mountain for over a day.
Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit, as well as other local rescue organizations, were able to locate the two climbers via their cell phones before rappelling down a 150-foot ridge to save them from a cave where they were sheltered.
“This was a very long mission rescuing two people suffering from exposure on that mountain,” said Todd Shechter, the president of CMRU, said in a press release.
“It’s very rewarding to help fellow mountaineers live another day because of the work that we do.”
Usually, CMRU said, to perform a life-saving operation like this, they’d use a helicopter rescue. But, because of clouds hovering over the mountain’s summit, they couldn’t. Instead, the rescue team hiked up the mountain to the last known location of the hikers.
It took 4 more hours to locate the hikers.
“It was a very difficult locating where they were,” Shechter said. “On the west side of Three Fingered Jack, there are many mountain spires, valleys, and smaller mountains that make it so you can’t see. You think you’re going one direction towards the subjects and turns out you’re a mountain ridge away.”
At around 4 a.m., over 24 hours from when the hikers began their assent to the summit, the rescue unit found the hikers and rappelled down to their cave. There, they found the woman suffering form hypothermia. The rescue team spent 2 hours trying to warm her and the the other hiker, using heat blankets, insulated jackets, honey sticks and Gatorade. They decided the woman, too sick and weak to move, couldn’t hike down the mountain. She needed a helicopter, and by that time, with the sun rising on Aug. 14 and the clouds leaving, it was viable — but it wasn’t easy.
“Think of doing this on a mountain that is crumbling, has rock fall and very difficult anchor positions,” said Shechter. “There’s no getting around the fact that it was a very dangerous mission-but we had to do it and we tried to do it in the safest and most efficient way possible.”
The man hiked down Three Fingered Jack with the rest of the rescue team while a helicopter was able to lift the woman out. Both hikers survived.