Oregon Climber Becomes Disoriented, Prompting Air and Ground Rescue Efforts

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

An experienced Oregon climber was forced to call 911 for help on Friday when she became disoriented while descending the South Sister peak. The woman had made this same descent multiple times before.

According to KTVZ, the 61-year-old climber, formerly from Bend, OR, had submitted the mountain’s hikers’ trail several times before. She told emergency personnel, after making multiple call attempts, that she’d been hiking alone with her dog. She also said she’d lost contact with her hiking partner as well as the trail she’d become familiar with.

Per the outlet, her 911 calls elicited a search and rescue effort that included an AirLink helicopter. The original call came in at around 4:20 p.m. local time. However, not long after she was patched through, the woman lost contact due to bad cellphone service. Dispatchers tried to make contact with the woman multiple times. They even attempted to track her location, but a lack of signal prevented them from doing so.

Eventually, the woman was able to get through again herself. In doing so, she assured first responders that she did have food, water, warm clothes, and an extra phone battery. The woman also informed responding units that there could be another missing person somewhere else along the mountain trail.

Multiple Search and Rescue Teams Deployed to Locate Missing Climber

While the search for the missing climber proved difficult, the outlet reports the experienced outdoors woman had plenty of rescue teams hunting for her.

Donny Patterson, the Deschutes County sheriff’s deputy and assistant Search and Rescue coordinator, spoke about all of the manpower involved in bringing the climber to safety.

After the 911 call came in, followed by multiple failed attempts, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office sent out multiple teams. According to the outlet, the full effort included 12 search and rescue volunteers, a sergeant, and two Special Services deputies. Dispatchers also reached out to AirLink who responded and volunteered to search for the missing woman from the air.

The AirLink crew eventually spotted the woman, sending ground teams her coordinates. Per the outlet, rescuers reached the woman around 8:15 p.m. and walked her down the trail and out of the area. She was also reunited with her partner at the Devils Lake Trailhead.

For an experienced climber like the one summiting South Sister, getting lost in that manner certainly had to be scary. After she was found safe, she told search and rescue teams that she had lived in Bend for 17 years and had summited that same peak a dozen times. Unfortunately, she could not recall how she lost the familiar trail, though she did suggest that perhaps she had confused a spur trail for the main trail.

South Sister is a 10,358-foot peak and represents the third tallest mountain in the state.