County Search and Rescue Locates Lost Climbers on Mt. Hood

After three hours of search in the frigid darkness on Mt. Hood, Search & Rescue teams coordinated through the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office located a lost climber from Sunriver, who was hypothermic and stranded at an altitude of over 6,000 feet.

Nikolas David Larson, 31, summitted Mt. Hood on Friday and has begun his descent. But at about 8 p.m. that night, he called 911 to report that he was lost in whiteout conditions and needed help.

He told police he had a few protein bars, but no water, and his cellphone battery was at 2 percent. SAR coordinators with the CCSO called out Portland Mountain Rescue, the Hood River Crag Rats and Mountain Wave to assist.

The first team of searchers assembled and left from Timberline Lodge at about 11 p.m Friday night via snowcat. When they reached the top of the Palmer Lift, they set off on foot to locate Larson.

A rescue team reached Larson at approximately 2 a.m. Saturday, at 6,200 feet on the west side of Mt. Hood, just above Split Rock. He was hypothermic, but alive.

Rescuers began to administer first aid and prepared Larson to be moved. A second mountain rescue team entered the field at 5 a.m. to assist with the extraction, along with a Reach and Treat team from American Medical Response (AMR) and Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue.

Larson was transported to Kiwanis Camp Road near Government Camp, where he was met by an ambulance from AMR and taken to the hospital.

All told, about 30 rescuers participated in this operation, including CCSO detectives, who helped determine Larson’s location by analyzing phone data.

Later that Saturday, a call came in for a second climber in need of help. Dani Rudinsky, 23, of Colorado, had injured her ankle when she was caught in a small avalanche. She and her climbing partner were on the west side of Mt. Hood near Yocum Ridge, below the Reid Headwall.

Rudinsky was an experienced climber and was prepared with a device called “inReach,” which she was able to use to send a distress call. Search and rescue coordinators utilize this information to better determine where the subject is and what is needed for a rescue.

To reach Rudinsky required a lot of manpower, police said, and coming so closely on the heels of another rescue mission was a challenge.

The first team to reach the injured climber was comprised of AMR Reach and Treat along with Portland Mountain Rescue. They were followed by two more teams, including additional Hood River Crag Rats and Portland Mountain Rescue.

One group made sure Rudinsky was stable and packed her into a Sked litter. A second group set up a rope line to pull her up to the south side of Illumination Saddle which is 9,200’ elevation. From that point, teams skied down with her to Timberline Lodge.

Rescue crews reached Timberline Lodge at 9:30 p.m., meaning rescue crews had been actively working on the mountain for nearly 23 hours straight to begin the Memorial Day weekend.

Police say there is a high avalanche danger on Mt. Hood right now, due to a recent accumulation of 10 inches of snow along with warming temperatures.

Photos courtesy the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office:

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