Here is another search and rescue (SAR) story worth reading. It contains an important lesson for all of us. Also shows how easily these incidents can be avoided or mitigated.
Missing Oregon Hiker Found Alive After Four Days in the Forest
Published August 03, 2011
A woman who was missing for three nights in an Oregon forest after becoming separated from her boyfriend and tumbling off a cliff was found alive and rescued Tuesday after subsisting on berries and bugs to survive.
Pamela Salant of Portland says she ate berries, drank from a creek and also tried to scoot to safety on her bottom because she couldn’t walk.
Hood River County sheriff’s Detective Matt English says the 28-year-old Portland woman was in serious condition with a possible broken left leg after her rescue from Mount Hood National Forest.
“Everyone is just relieved,” Aric Essig, Pamela’s boyfriend, told Fox 12 “I’m really proud of her.”
An Oregon Army Guard helicopter crew spotted Salant sitting on a rock near a creek Tuesday afternoon, and returned to Salem to get a chopper equipped for hoisting her out of the forest. A UH-60 Blackhawk chopper made the actual rescue, carrying Salant to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.
She suffered injuries to her back, leg, and knee, but is expected to be fine, Essig said.
The Oregonian reported that Salant got lost Saturday when she and Essig dropped their gear near Bear Lake and went looking for a camping spot. After her fall, Salant began following a creek, trying to reach the Columbia River and get help, Hood River Country Sheriff’s Detective Matt English said. She ended up in a steep drainage, about a mile and a half from the lake.
“She had fallen off a cliff, a pretty high cliff,” Essig described. “She knew she had to get to water, so she scooted her way down this steep hill and found water and drank from a stream.”
Salant survived the four days and three nights wearing only shorts and a tank top.
“At night she was really cold, so she covered herself with moss,” Essig told Fox 12. “She ate berries and ate a caterpillar and a slug, anything she could do to survive.”
More than 25 people from the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, plus multiple other agencies including the National Guard and U.S.Forest Service police, searched the rugged and densely wooded terrain.
Salant heard the helicopters and made her way to an open area, so she could be spotted, Essig said.
He says her adrenaline and will to survive helped save her.
“She thought she was going to die, so she knew she had to make it,” Essig told Fox 12. “She said she was surprisingly confident and not scared for a lot of it; she knew she had to do it.”
So, grasshopper, what can we gleam from this mission? First and foremost, don’t let yourself get separated from your gear, especially your most important gear. Unfortunately, this is a common problem. It is something I talk to horseback trail riders about because they tend to strap their essentials to their saddles or use their saddlebags which means if they get thrown and the horse takes off they are left with nothing but a cowboy hat and a sore backside.
This is also something we pound into the heads of new SAR trainees. The admonition is to load the technical gear into the helicopter for the trip back to the Command Post but keep your pack with you, consider it a part of your body. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the helo depart the mountain LZ promising to come back but doesn’t for some reason leaving those up high to hump back down to the CP. Depending on time, distance, weather, terrain and any number of other things you could be in a tough position for a while without your gear. Not smart. Not good.
Know what you really need and keep it with you, on your person. Absolute minimum in this area, at this time of year would be a light jacket tied around your waist, a headlamp and a Bic lighter in your pockets, and a good whistle on a lanyard around your neck. Add a fanny or lumbar pack with a strobe light, SPOT unit, water bottle and a couple of food bars and we would never have heard about this.
One other observation, hind sight being 20/20, splitting up wasn’t a good idea either.
Nobody ever expects to get lost so you have to be prepared all the time. I am glad Ms. Salant is OK and congratulations to all the SAR gods that got her back home. Well done.
Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.
We can be educated and persuaded but not bought, bullied or bs’d. Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.