Rescued part 3

After speaking to the 911 dispatcher I was very relieved that someone knew where I was. I would no longer be stranded on the cliff for the next week, before my emergency contact reported me as an overdue hiker. I felt very lucky the situation worked out as it did. I could think of one other scenario of attempting to climb out and await rescue back on the summit block - but it had a very high percentage rate of me falling again. It still would have lead me to await rescue, but would have been more 'comfortable' waiting there than the ledge. I feel knowing when to seek help is what saved my life and prevented further injury.

I definitely had the feeling of a mouse caught in a trap. My ego was the biggest thing I had to let go. I knew if I hit the panic button, I would never hear the end of it for the rest of my life. I have lots of friends in the local hiking community, as well as Park employees and volunteer rescuers. They are always looking at me like I'm a nut job - often warning me that the things I do are very risky and might some day get me into serious trouble. It appears they were right.

snow melt water
I was lucky to have this water source while awaiting rescue. The act of collecting water and trying to keep hydrated in the sun is what kept my mind most busy.

For the next few hours I would be in random contact with Park dispatch. During these calls, they would give me an update on the plan of rescue. The ranger on the phone asked me how much rope and what climbing gear I had. These items may be needed to attempt rescue. I estimated 1,000' of rope, climbing harness and helmet for their team. I was also asked how much ground was above me and if I thought they could squeeze a helicopter in below the summit block. I told them there was a chance - but it would be tight.

The first conversation was actually dropped, because of poor service. Each phone call required dispatchers to patch me through two different county offices before reaching the Park dispatch ranger. The phone I was using did not have a number, nor proper service for them to 'ping me'. The device being in roaming probably didn't help either.

The third call let me know that emergency responders were trying to coordinate a ground team to reach me by foot. I would need to call back in one hour to get an updated rescue plan. After hanging up, I powered down the device to save the battery since there was just a sliver left.

mount duckabush
The calming view while I awaited rescue.

During that time period I had lots of time to think about my situation and how I got myself there. I often refer to it as, 'seeing the great white mountain goat'. Collecting water, being visited by butterflies and a hummingbird, and elk activity in a near basin is what kept my mind at ease. The hummingbird is what left a lasting impression. It would come to me in a quick pattern, stop, look right at me and then continue on with its day. I feel it was revisiting me for comfort.

After exactly one hour, I powered up the phone and made another call to dispatch - getting transferred three times before talking to a ranger. He informed me that there was a new plan underway. I was too remote for the rescue team to carry the needed gear on foot, so they would be dispatching a speedy helicopter team. There would be roughly an 1.5 hour wait before I could plan to see them. I was informed not to worry - the helicopter would fly in lots of directions to access the best plan of action for my rescue by air, before finally touching down to attempt rescue. At that time I wasn't too worried about them just leaving me for the night

lake ben
My view of Lake Ben from the ledge where I squatted awaiting rescue. I was scheduled to visit the lake on this trip. I wanted so badly  to be over there and not in my current situation. It was quite discouraging mentally.

Right on time! The little helicopter flew almost right to my position. I was glad the directions of my location made sense to the crew. Just like the little hummingbird, the pilot flew in quick and then stopped to hover just across from my location - almost at eye level. The people on board must have thought I was a complete fool for getting myself in such a predicament. I thought I could almost see them shaking their heads through the little windows.

After some brief aerial work, the helicopter went behind the ridgeline out of my view. The helicopter sat there for a brief moment and then took off again. Shortly after I could see snow falling off its forks, so I knew it had touched down on a snowfield in my area. A short time later it came back to the same location, but this time powered down its engine. The valley fell back to its peace and quiet state - helicopters do make a lot of racket in a wilderness area. Later I found out that the helicopter had flown to a nearby backcountry ranger station to pick up another party for their rope team. Some time passed and then I could hear a ranger yelling over to me - asking if I was alright. He was behind the ridgeline and on the other side of the bad gully system. That was my first contact with any human in four days.


What would you do in this situation?  Leave a comment below.