When a 27-year-old Seattle native embarked on a climb up Snohomish County, Washington’s Sloan Peak during a routine climbing class, he hardly expected to face life-endangering circumstances. However, upon luckily suffering only a broken ankle from an intense fall on the peak, the climber’s instructor was forced to signal for a personal locater beacon, and dispatch for help from Snohomish County’s search and rescue teams. Approximately 70 volunteers responded to the emergency call in an ultimately successful rescue mission.
Initially, a helicopter was dispatched in response to the emergency call. However, weather prevented helicopter rescue from reaching the climber, forcing everyone to hold out another day until rescue and medical help could reach the man on foot. Upon locating the injured climber, the 70 rescuers managed to manually transport the man to relative safety on Sloan Peak’s cliff, where he could be picked up by a helicopter and flown to receive medical attention.
According to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the entire mission took about 1,000 hours of volunteer time. The rescue squad consisted of volunteers who belonged to a variety of search-and-rescue teams of the surrounding counties, including Yakima (Central) Mountain Rescue, Chelan County Mountain Rescue, Everett Mountaineers, Seattle Mountaineers, Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue team (BORSTAR), and the US Custom Border Protection.
Due to the mountainous terrain, inclement weather difficulties, and inexperienced, ill-equipped hikers and accidents, rescue teams throughout the Seattle area were dispatched on missions across its mountain ranges. Snohomish County Search and Rescue team alone embarked on seven rescue missions in the course of a single weekend. Surrounding counties are also receiving a similar influx in rescue missions, including another call responding to an emergency involving three hikers stranded on Rattlesnake Ledge. Fortunately, the hikers managed to save themselves by the time help arrived.
According to many rescue team members and emergency search volunteers, a major cause of accidents are due to amateur or inexperienced hikers, with inadequate or insufficient hiking gear.
“People are getting a false sense of security – it’s 80 degrees out and they get hiking and they hit snow and they aren’t ready for snow, they’re ready just for gravel and a path,” explained Labissoniere.
Another volunteer, Everett Mountaineers Climbing Education Manager, Steve Smith shared a similar sentiment with KOMO News. “I’ve definitely seen people hiking up into pretty remote areas in tennis shoes, cotton jeans and t-shirts,” Smith said. “When that stuff gets wet up high it does not hold an insulating value at all.”
Smith also spoke on behalf of all search-and-rescue teams, warning hikers to plan appropriately, be prepared with sufficient equipment, and to be knowledgeable of the dangers that come with bushwhacking and other “backcountry travel,” in order to avoid a potential disaster.
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