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HitTheTrail
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PostThu Jul 30, 2020 4:54 pm 
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LEAVENWORTH — Emergency crews rescued an injured climber off of Mount Stuart late Wednesday night. High temperatures delayed initial rescue attempts, which began Tuesday night after the climber called-in for help.

The woman, 23-year-old Lucile Townley of Carnation, was struck by a falling rock, causing her to fall 20 feet, said Rich Magnussen with Chelan County Emergency Management. She suffered a fractured arm and leg, as well as a head injury.


She contacted authorities for assistance about 10 p.m. Tuesday. The accident occurred about the 9,000-foot level on the North Ridge Route, Magnussen said.

A hoist-capable helicopter from Naval Base Whidbey Island attempted to rescue Townley from the mountain Tuesday night but wasn’t able to due to her location near the summit, Magnussen said.

The helicopter crew also wasn’t able to reach her early Wednesday because of wind and high temperatures.

“The hotter it is, the less lift you have in the air,” Magnussen said. He added the blades don’t get enough “bite” in the thin, high-elevation air.

A four-person mountain rescue team was flown near the mountain by the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office’s helicopter and was with Townley when Magnussen spoke to The World at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The team worked to lower her 1,000 feet onto a glacier that would serve as a more favorable pickup location for the helicopter, Magnussen said.

Later Wednesday, two more mountain rescue members, including a medic, were flown in to assist with the rescue. This time, they were transported by a helicopter owned by Chelan County Fire District 1.

The two new rescuers set up on the glacier in preparation for the first rescue team and the injured climber. Magnussen explained the original four rescuers didn’t expect to operate on a glacier and the new rescuers took extra snow equipment.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, the four-person team had lowered the woman 300 feet, Magnussen said. A Navy helicopter hoisted Townley to safety at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, transporting her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Townley is in "satisfactory condition," according to the hospital.

The Mount Stuart incident was one of four rescue calls to emergency management since Monday.


Another climber fell on Mount McCausland, north of Stevens Pass on the border of Chelan and Snohomish counties, and suffered a fractured hip and cuts to the face, Magnussen said.

The injured climber was on the 5,741-foot mountain with a partner, who wasn’t injured. The two were found by a third climber, who signaled for help about 7 a.m. Wednesday. The injured climber was hoisted from the area by a King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and flown to a hospital. His partner hiked out.

Earlier on Tuesday, a mother and daughter were hiking on 5,801-foot Bryant Peak, roughly 14 miles northwest of Lake Wenatchee, when about 5 p.m. the mother showed signs of heat exhaustion and couldn’t exit the area on her own, Magnussen said. A helicopter crew from Naval Base Whidbey Island hoisted her out.

Also on Tuesday, a 29-year-old Shoreline man was airlifted from Gunsight Peak near Stehekin after falling Monday and possibly fracturing his ankle, Magnussen said.

World staff writer Luke Hollister contributed to this report.
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nordique
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PostThu Jul 30, 2020 9:27 pm 
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Is it just me, but that seems like a rather high injury/SAR event in a relatively short period of time.   As always, very impressive SAR work!  I contribute monthly to Seattle Mountain Rescue, and have done so for a long time.  Anyone who spends any time in the mountains should consider setting up a monthly stipend!
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car68
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PostFri Jul 31, 2020 4:15 am 
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This is what a helicopter rescue looks like.  It was actually Lichtenberg.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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dave allyn
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PostFri Jul 31, 2020 6:48 am 
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Check out the Chelan County Mountain Rescue Association facebook page. Some amazing photos. Probably the most technical and difficult rescue around here in some time.
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HitTheTrail
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PostSat Aug 01, 2020 7:22 am 
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Here is a follow-up to the Wenatchee news article:


LEAVENWORTH — In a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday, four injured hikers or climbers were airlifted out of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from Stehekin to Mount Stuart.

The rescues come amidst an unprecedented surge in visitors to the Okanogan-Wenatchee: campgrounds are at or near full capacity at all times and parking lot overflow stretches for miles along roadways in some cases, according to Suzanne Cable, trails and wilderness program manager with the U.S. Forest Service.

She thinks it’s related to COVID-19.


“There has definitely been an upward trend over the last several years in many locations, but the huge spike in use is definitely pandemic-related as more and more people are choosing to explore all kinds of outdoor recreation on their national forests,” Cable said in an email Thursday.

In past years, Okanogan-Wenatchee was busiest on weekends but now weekdays are what weekends used to be and weekends are more like holidays, Cable said.

It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that with more people on the trails there have also, at least recently, been more injuries.

“Yesterday, I would’ve swore that was a Saturday or Sunday the way calls were coming in,” said Rich Magnussen of Chelan County Emergency Management. “Really right now, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is we’re just seeing a lot of activity.”

Of the four people rescued, three were experienced and carrying appropriate equipment, he said.

Magnussen and Sgt. Kent Sisson help lead search and rescues for the sheriff’s office. They recall weekends with three or four search and rescue, often abbreviated to “SAR,” but not in the middle of the week.

The concern is that one day the sheriff’s office will be stretched too thin to appropriately respond to an injured climber.

Aside from search and rescues, Sisson and Magnussen are tasked with issuing evacuation notices during wildfires, which consumes most of their time during the first 24 hours of a fire.

“There’s so much that needs to get done from evacs to road blocks and tying in with the incident command,” Sisson said. “So that’s our other fear is getting another fire like we had [July 24] and then getting SARs on top of that,” Sisson said.

He added, “I mean, we were working two or three SARs at once for a little while. You only have so many coordinators, you only have so many volunteers. So yeah, definitely it concerns us.”


And then there’s helicopters.

Search and rescues often require a helicopter to fly a patient to safety or to insert a mountain rescue climber near the patient. As was the case this week, helicopters aren’t always easy to come by.

When a 23-year-old Carnation woman was injured Tuesday on Mount Stuart, the sheriff’s office used one of its helicopters to fly in a four-person rescue team. After the helicopter returned from its mission it didn’t have enough power to fly back out to the mountain later that day to insert two more rescuers, Magnussen said.

The sheriff’s office has a second helicopter, but it’s currently out of service with mechanical problems. Instead, they used Chelan County Fire District 1’s helicopter, which is leased to the state Department of Natural Resources. That’s a lot of phone calls.

If a hoist is needed, officials often lean on helicopter crews from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island or King County.

With the weekend drawing near and fire weather in the forecast, Sisson and Magnussen are asking recreators to know their limits and use caution.

“Don’t do a new activity that you’ve never done before or with this heat, hiking isn’t necessarily the best idea right now,” Sisson said. “People really just need to stop and think before they take on some of these hikes and climbs and different activities.”

Magnussen noted that three of the four recent search and rescues weren’t attributable to inexperience.

“They’re people taking falls that, you know, those are tough to prevent and they all had the right equipment, just tragic accidents,” Magnussen said. “Numbers have increased, so we’re just going to see more of those.”
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