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Lost snowmobiler lucky to survive mistakes

SURVIVAL — In the span of a week, a snowmobiler near the Montana-Idaho line and another sledder hundreds of miles south in Utah became stuck — and each had to endure two cold nights in the winter wild before being rescued.

Both of them made the critical mistake of riding in the backcountry alone.

Barry Sadler, 54, who lives near Mullan, Idaho, got stuck in a steep drainage just over the state line into Montana on Sunday as he continued riding in heavy snowfall conditions after his buddy went home.

Lawrence Orduno, 48, of Phoenix, got stuck Dec. 27 and in a remote northern Utah canyon after he and a friend were separated while riding near Logan.

Saddler apparently had little more than a space blanket, which he draped over himself as he hugged his engine for its warmth. He started the engine off and on, but ran out of gas and was writing goodbye notes to his kids because he didn't think he'd survive.

Orduno used a cigarette lighter to make a fire and shaped the snow around him into a cave-like shelter, using the side covers from his snowmobile to help protect him from the wind. But he said he started to worry the second night and considered taking more desperate measures, including setting his machine on fire.

Neither man had significant food or water, snowshoes for navigating out of the deep snow or other survival gear.

Both men thanked their rescuers profusely.

"It's so painful to freeze to death," Sadler told the Coeur d'Alene Press. "It's one of the most brutal ways to die…. I was dying a little bit every day, getting colder and weaker."

"He's pretty lucky," said Shoshone County Sheriff Mitch Alexander after five of Sadler's buddies found him, helped him get through the second night and led him to safety on Tuesday.

"I chewed him out because he's riding by himself," Alexander said. "He didn't have his survival gear. He didn't have his avalanche beacon on. I also talked him into buying one of those SPOT satellite locators."

The satellite locators can summon help while also providing potential rescuers a location.

Search-Rescue teams huge asset to recreationists

OUTDOOR PURSUITS — The weekend rescue of a climber trapped by a shifting boulder below Chimney Rock gives us cause to pause, take a deep breath, evaluate and be thankful for a the services we enjoy every time we venture into the outdoors, even if we don't need them.

The mountains can be dangerous. Always be prepared for a night out in the elements, even if you're just day hiking.  At the minimum, carry a pack with the 13 Essentials (listed at the end of this post). The two climbers involved in weekend search and rescue operation in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains were well equipped with trek-in backpacks of gear, food, water and warm clothing in addition to the small summit packs they used during the climb of Chimney Rock.

Reliable companions can be your best insurance while traveling in the backcountry. Ammi Midstokke, who was trapped by a boulder that crushed her foot as she hiked away from Chimney Rock east of Priest Lake last weekend, had the luxury — a relative term — to be accompanied by Jason Luthy, a wilderness medicine instructor and member of volunteer search and rescue teams.

Acquire some training in wilderness survival and medicine. The Spokane Mountaineers offer courses in mountaineering and backpacking. And Luthy offers instruction through his company, Longleaf Wilderness Medicine based in Sandpoint. When self-rescue was clearly out of the picture, he called for help and tended to Midstokke for more than 8 hours through the night.

Support Search and Rescue teams.  The Priest Lake Search and Rescue group that took the risk through the night to save Midstokke are trained VOLUNTEERS who raise money for equipment at the annual Priest Lake Huckleberry Festival. All of the region's Search and Rescue efforts are largely underfunded. "These guys were awesome," Midstokke praised after the rescue. They even did breathing exercises with her to help her through the pain through the long night.

Thank God for helicopters.  Midstokke lifted to safety after her all-night ordeal on a stretcher dangling from a cable hoist below a specially equipped helicopter staffed by trained airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base. While you're at it, thank Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for working to keep rescue flight helicopters available for service.

This 36th RQF has been in the news several times this year, including two flights this summer to save the butts of a rafter and a Pacific Crest Trail hiker.

The Spokane area has access to other helicopter medical services, such as Northwest MedStar, which offers a low-cost insurance plan. But Fairchild's powerful helicopters with cable lifts are needed for rescues in rugged locations. 

Fairchild wasn't always a reliable partner for civilian rescues.  In the late 1970s, I covered the story of rock climber David Sather (co-owner of the former Western Outdoor Sports shop in Spokane Valley), who suffered a compound fracture of his femur in a rock fall while climbing Chimney Rock. Fairchild crews were training nearby in Tacoma Creek but the base refused to call them in to the rescue. Search and Rescue teams had to carry him out in a brutal ordeal for all involved that put Sather's leg and life at great risk.

Since then the command at Fairchild has changed it's policies. This flight to rescue Midstokke was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue,

THE 10 ESSENTIALS
Outdoors groups and mountaineering clubs have devised a list of essential gear that should go along with every hiker, hunter, climber or other outdoors adventurer heading away from town. With these “10 essentials’” and the knowledge to use them, life-threatening situations can be prevented.

 1. Map of the area
2. Compass
3. Extra food and water
4. Extra clothing
5. Flashlight with extra cells
6. First-aid kit
7. Matches in a waterproof case
8. Fire starter
9. Sturdy knife
10. Sunglasses and sunscreen

The Spokane Mountaineers recommend “13 essentials,” which supplement the above list with:
11. Emergency shelter such as a space blanket.
12. Signaling device.
13. Toilet paper.

 

Rescuers save climber pinned by boulder at Chimney Rock

MOUNTAIN RESCUES — Sandpoint rock climber Ammi Midstokke, 36, battered from head to toe from a bout with a 1.5-ton granite boulder, wasted no time being thankful to her friend and two teams of rescuers. 

"Bottom line- everyone is safe, I'm pretty banged up, and spending the night under a rock sucks. I'll update more as the morphine wears off!"

As soon as she came clear from the medications, she posted on Facebook this summary of her Sept. 19-20 ordeal in the Idaho Selkirk Mountains.

A brief explanation: after a successful summit of (the west side of) Chimney Rock, a boulder came down on me while crossing the talus fields, pinning me in its path. Jason Luthy attempted self-rescue but it was both too heavy and too dangerous.

We called Search and Rescue and they tried to stabilize me with heat and good stories. Eight hours later, well past midnight, they were able to hoist the boulder and extract a very deformed, very dead looking foot. There was much drama on my end as blood began to flow into the foot and the team transported me to safe ground. It was apparent that hiking out wasn't an option, so we hunkered down until the Air Force could lift me out after daylight.

Initial X rays show tarsal breakage but a remarkably whole foot. We'll know more later this week. I couldn't have hoped for a more competent adventuring partner or a better group of rescuers. You guys are all my heroes!!!

Midstokke suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot.

According to a report from Fairchild Air Force Base, Luthy was able to call 911 at 5:30 p.m. prompting rescue efforts. An eight-person Priest Lake Search and Rescue ground party began a hike at 8:20 p.m. negotiating steep, narrow and rocky terrain finally reaching Midstokke at 12:49 a.m.

The PLSAR ground party used a web and pulley system to free her from the boulder in less than one hour. Her injuries were stabilized and she was kept comfortable as the situation was assessed.

It was determined that hiking her out would be too dangerous in the night time hours considering the remote location and the unforgiving nature of the terrain. Efforts went underway to contact the 36th Rescue Flight at Fairchild.   

At 7:10 a.m., a four-member crew from the 36th RQF and the 336th Training Support Squadron 'Rescue 13' was dispatched to the area in a UH-1N Iroquois helicopter.

They arrived on-scene at 7:45 a.m.

"A hover was the only possible way of extraction as the terrain was far too treacherous to land," said Capt. Josiah Hart, 36th RQF co-pilot. "We made our initial approach, but the aircraft started to sink due to excess fuel. To get more power, we burned off some fuel for 25 minutes and reengaged to a 30-foot hover over the scene.

The crew then lowered Maj. David Oldham, 336th TRSS flight surgeon, down to Midstokke and the ground party delivering water and preparing her for extraction on a Stokes Litter. At 8:35 a.m., Oldham signaled to 'Rescue 13' in the skies above that she was ready for extraction. Due to favorable winds, the approach was made to an 80-foot hover over the scene. Midstokke was hoisted out followed by Oldham. Rescue 13 then transported her to Sandpoint, Idaho where she was transferred via-ambulance to Bonner General Hospital.

"Having this training and capability to perform rescue missions provides a valuable service to Inland Northwest residents," Oldham said. "All the pieces fit together for this rescue. The ground team worked very hard through the night and when we arrived it was a seamless transfer from ground to air - the whole experience was very humbling."

"Overall, our crew for this mission was well practiced in this kind of scenario and they all performed extremely well during the extraction," said Capt. Erik Greendyke, 36th RQF aircraft commander.

"There are always people who will need help, and if we have the ability to help, we should," Hart said. "Without our capabilities, Ms. Midstokke may have had a difficult time being rescued. It was truly a team effort to rescue her on Saturday.

Recovering from her injuries at home today, Midstokke is extremely thankful for the Fairchild crew.

"I feel extremely grateful for the Air Force crew rescuing me," she told Scott King of Fairchild public affairs. "They were all very competent and compassionate in a traumatic situation. The rescue itself was technically very challenging and the fact that the Air Force was able and willing to do this is testament to the professionalism of our U.S. military — thank you for your commitment to service and everything you did to keep me safe and well!"

This was the 36th RQF's 688th rescue.

Huckleberry festivals mark ripening of Idaho state fruit

WILD EDIBLES — The huckleberry harvest season is underway at lower elevations and the pleasure is working its way up the region’s mountainsides as the berries ripen. People and communities have taken note:

The berries are ripening at higher elevations this week, but the peak rage of ripe berries occurs in August. With my family in tow, I have to add hours to the hiking time into a Cabinet or Bitterroot mountains backpacking destination. It's hard to walk past a booming patch of hucks.

High areas in the Selkirk Mountains, such as Roman Nose, provide good picking into September.

Air Force helicopter rescues Marble Creek rafter

WATERSPORTS — The benefits of living near an Air Force Base with skilled rescue helicopter pilots have paid off for recreationists, most recently in a one-weekend blitz to help a Pacific Crest Trail hiker as well as a Spokane Valley rafter on a tributary to the St. Joe River.

Airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight answered the call to save not only one, but two lives in one weekend. We're just getting the details.

On June 13 at 5:30 p.m., the crew received a call that a kayaker was stranded 70 miles southeast of Fairchild Air Force Base, according to a report by Airman 1st Class Janelle Patiño of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs.

Within a few hours, the crew launched the UH-1N Huey and was enroute to the man's location.

Bart Rayniak, a retired Spokesman-Review photograher, had been kayaking near where Marble Creek flows into the St. Joe's River when his cataraft flipped, ejecting him into the cold water.

"There were some challenges that occurred during the rescue due to the weather, but the crew of Rescue 48 never gave up," said Maj. Jennings Marshall, the 36th RQF commander. "At 8:30 p.m., Capt. Nate Jolls, a 36th RQF pilot, with the survivor on board, began an approach back toward the ambulance where Maj. Montsho Corppetts, a 336th Training Support Squadron medic, was waiting."

"I was never able to truly thank my rescuers," Rayniak told the base reporter. "They were so wonderful! They put their lives on the line to save mine. They were amazing flyers and crew. They were professional and caring. Damn good at what they do. I will always be grateful."

A logging operation this year apparently has caused logs to slide into the river and increase the hazard for floaters during high water, the only time Marble Creek is navigable for rafts and kayaks.

  • Rayniak has not been available for further comment to the S-R.

Friends recovered his cataraft the next day. The video in the post below indicates the velocity of the water and the hazards in the Marble Creek posed by a logging operation. A look at this brief video explains why Rayniak couldn't just swim to safety even though he was fully decked out with dry suit and life vest.

Two days later, on June 15, the crew received a call at approximately 11:30 a.m. that there was an injured hiker along the Pacific Crest Trail in Northern Washington needing quick extraction.

"He had been walking along a steep and snowy section of the trail when he slipped and tumbled down the mountainside, hitting a tree and breaking several ribs," Marshall said. "Fortunately, his hiking buddy was able to call for help."

Capt. Erik Greendyke, the 36th RQF operations supervisor, worked with Marshall to assemble a crew. The crew then launched at 1 p.m. and followed the Methow River past Mazama, Wash., to the hiker's location.

"Other hikers prepared a bright orange tent along the ridgeline that helped us immediately identify the area with minimal searching," Marshall said. "As soon as we rescued the injured hiker and his hiker buddy, the survivor was then loaded onto an ambulance with the help of Capt. Josiah Hart, the 36th RQF standardization and evaluation liaison officer, and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Poe, a 36th RQF special missions aviator, and departed for the hospital."

Helicopter rescue operations can be dangerous, but the 36th RQF crews constantly train to maintain proficiency in rescue operations as part of the mission to support the Air Force's only Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school.

"We take great effort to ensure rescues are executed safely and with as little risk as possible," Marshall said. "Our normal training missions take place at Fairchild and in the Colville National Forest and we have been tasked to perform civilian rescues throughout the Pacific Northwest in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana."
  

PCT hikers wasn’t lost, ‘just stuck’ in storm

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.

IKING — A 23-year-old woman reported missing for six days while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington was found safe this weekend.

Alejandra Wilson was located Saturday afternoon, authorities told the Associated Press. She was cold and tired but otherwise OK.

 

A search team spotted the Oregon woman walking in the Crest trail area as she started hiking out. She was reported missing after becoming overdue for a trail check Sept. 30.

Sgt. George Town of the Yakima County sheriff’s office said Wilson reported that she got stranded by a snow storm about a week ago and waited until conditions improved before walking out.

“She said the snow was almost waist deep and she was pretty well stuck. She wasn’t lost, she was just stuck,” Town said in an interview Sunday.

Wilson told authorities she hunkered down and set up camp under some trees to wait out the storm, he said. From there, she said she spotted the Coast Guard helicopters that went up in search of her. The helicopters flew overhead but she wasn’t able to flag them down in time, Town said.

“The Coast Guard guys were right on track. They did a good job. She wasn’t able to make herself visible,” but their presence “gave her real confidence,” Town said.

He noted that she still had food when she was located Saturday. She was reunited with her dad, grandparents and friends Saturday.

Some of the volunteer searchers included hiking companions who had been on the trail with her earlier in her trip, Town said Sunday. 

The Oregonian caught up to Wilson for a first-hand account and the "chilling" details. Click "continue reading" to read the account from the AP Wire.

Author revives art of naturally finding your way

NAVIGATION — Long before GPS, Google Earth, and global transit, humans traveled vast distances using only environmental clues and simple instruments.

John Huth, Harvard physics professor and author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way, says we can still do it.

Anyone who ventures outdoors should at least check out this book and ponder the consequences of allowing modern technology to substitute for our innate capacity to find our way. 

  • The Vikings navigated using the sunstone to detect polarization of sunlight.
  • Arab traders learned to read the wind for direction.
  • Pacific Islanders used underwater lightning and “read” waves to guide their explorations. 

 Even today, careful observation of the sun and moon, tides and ocean currents, moss on trees, weather and atmospheric effects can be all we need to find our way.

Getting Lost Costs Taxpayers

Item: Getting lost can cost – and taxpayers get hit: Shoshone County has had a recent rash of searches/Becky Kramer, SR.

More Info: The first call came from snowmobilers near the old mining town of Murray, Idaho. Dusk had set in, and the caller was worried about a man who had gotten separated from his group. Shortly afterward, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Department got another call about a lost snowmobiler. This one had failed to meet a friend near Wallace. Emergency calls from winter recreationists are common at the Shoshone County sheriff’s department, but the past two Saturdays were particularly busy. Deputies launched five search and rescue efforts to help a hurt snowmobiler and find skiers and snowmobilers who got lost or failed to return on time.

Question: Should individuals who get lost be required to pay some of the bill for their rescue?

Dog rescuers went the extra mile

WINTER SPORTS — Today's story about students rescuing a snowshoer's bluetick coonhound lost in the Kettle Range for two nights offers a life lesson to all of us.

Helping other people can be remarkably easy and productive if we just make the effort to try.

Think about what we could accomplish if everyone looked for a way to contribute every day rather than leaving it to somebody else.

See post-rescue photos here.

Hikers leave map home, separate from party, spend cold night out

HIKING — A couple of seasoned hikers made three classic mistakes that left them out on the slopes of Mount Rainier for a cold night in the woods Tuesday.

In a nutshell:

  • They separated from their party (and the party didn't wait for them at a critical trail junction!);
  • They didn't bring a map for the area to make an educated decision at the trail junction,
  • They didn't have matches that would light a warming fire when they realized they had to spend the night out in temps that ranged to about 40 degrees.

But they did a few things right

  • They stayed put, stayed calm, made shelter and cuddled to conserve body heat.

“I can tell you this for sure, his butt is warmer than mine,” said one of the hikers, both of whom are older than 75. 

"Yeah, how do you know?" the reporter asked.

“Because I was right up against it. And that’s a pretty strange feeling, I can tell you.”

Read on for the story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic

Record number of rescues logged in Tetons

MOUNTAINEERING —  Major searches and rescues at Grand Teton National Park hit a single-year record last week.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that park officials aren’t sure yet why there were so many rescues this year.

The record was eclipsed Aug. 20 when climber Lauren McLean of Lake Oswego, Ore., became the 31st major rescue since the park’s fiscal year began Oct. 1. McLean fell 20 to 30 feet because her belay system failed.

The busy year started right away for the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers. Twelve major rescues were performed during the winter and early spring months.

Full-time ranger Chris Harder told the newspaper rangers normally perform three to four major rescues during the winter.

Rescued hiker not feeling the love from Glacier Park officials

BACKPACKING — Glacier National Park officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after an aerial search fairly quickly turned up an overdue backpacker who'd set out on an overambitious spring itinerary.

But after returning the Helena man safely to civilization, ark officials issued a press release making it clear they are not impressed with people who set out on solo adventures that have a high probability of putting rescuers in harm's way.

Read on for the details.

Tetons search and rescue costs soar

NATIONAL PARKS — Search and rescue operations are costing Grand Teton National Park millions of dollars topped by last month's $115,000 search for missing backcountry skiers.

In 2009, the last year figures were available, the National Park Service spent about $5 million performing search and rescue operations. The recent search for Walker Kuhl of Utah and Gregory Seftick of Montana, who went missing on a backcountry ski trip, cost the park $115,000, nearly double of any previous search and rescue operation.

The debate over who should pay for such operations increases along with the costs, according to this story on Wyofile.com.


  

Rescuers sued in skier death

The heirs of a skier from New York who became lost outside the boundaries of Grand Targhee ski area in January and died of hypothermia are suing the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, and others for $5 million in a wrongful death claim. The 46-year-old man called 911 on a dying cell phone and spoke with dispatchers twice that evening, prompting a search, but he wasn’t found until morning, when he was unconscious and later died. Click below for a full report from the Teton Valley News, via the Associated Press.