National Park Service rescue crews and climbing rangers based at Mount Rainier successfully completed a rescue in each of the three large national parks in Washington State in a single day, Sunday, June 24.
The day started at 9 a.m. when a call came into the North Cascades National Park Communication Center reporting that a backpacker with respiratory distress was in the northwest section of the park. By midday the clouds had lifted, creating the necessary visibility for a helicopter rescue. Working with the North Cascades National Park climbing rangers, the crew performed a short-haul rescue when a rescuer and the 18-year-old patient were suspended on a line below the helicopter then evacuated to Marblemount before being transported to the hospital.
The helicopter pilot and crew then responded to Olympic National Park to perform a medical evacuation of a visitor who had gotten lost during day hike that had started on the previous Tuesday. On Saturday afternoon, park dispatchers received a call from a hiker who had encountered the 55-year-old man who needed of medical attention. Olympic National Park rangers contacted the lost hiker at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, after six days in the backcountry. The man was too weak to travel, and the terrain proved very difficult for ground-based rescue. The patient was evacuated via the park helicopter to the local hospital.
During the evening helicopter flight back to Mount Rainier National Park, injured climbers activated an emergency beacon on Liberty Ridge. Incident staff briefed the crew while in flight. The crew shifted course to perform reconnaissance at about 9,500 feet on the steep ridge, where the climbers waited for rescue. An additional Mount Rainier climbing ranger was picked up to help perform the evacuation of the injured climbers. Just before 9 p.m., the helicopter landed back at its home base, with the injured climbers.
The park service uses helicopter search and rescues for those cases demanding this specialized resource. Far more ground-based searches and rescues occur at national parks every year than those in which helicopters are employed. In the 24-hour period during which the most recent helicopter rescue took place on Sunday, several other ground-based personnel-intensive rescues were also successfully accomplished in these parks.
“I’m proud of the way our parks are working together as evidenced by this past weekend’s successful outcomes,” said Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “This happens through hard work and time spent together building skills and relationships.”