For three climbers stranded on Mount Hood, survival was a live transmitter and a warm dog. Rescuers said two women and a man who waited out a winter storm on the 11,239-foot mountain beamed signals to rescuers who were able to fix their precise location, as they covered up with two sleeping bags, a tarp and the dog, a black Labrador named Velvet.
For three climbers stranded on Mount Hood, survival was a live transmitter and a warm dog.
Rescuers said two women and a man who waited out a winter storm on the 11,239-foot mountain beamed signals to rescuers who were able to fix their precise location, as they covered up with two sleeping bags, a tarp and the dog, a black Labrador named Velvet.
“The dog probably saved their lives,” said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team.
After Velvet helped them through the night, transmitters the size of sunglasses cases led Brom and other rescuers to the three stranded climbers.
The devices are called Mountain Locator Units, and are available for rental at half a dozen locations in Portland and the Mount Hood area, and search leaders gave the devices and the climbers’ use of them credit.
“The most important part of this rescue is that they did everything right,” said Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Brian Bate, operations supervisor of the REI outdoors store in downtown Portland, said mountaineers can rent the units for $5 a climb-for a party of eight, that means $40.
But the devices are set up only to transmit, not to receive, Bate said. And the signal is received only by the Clackamas County sheriff’s office, at the base of Mount Hood, and then only when the sheriff’s office is looking for a climber, he said.
That makes filing a trip report with friends, relatives and authorities “really, really important,” he said, so that when a climber is overdue, a search can quickly be triggered.
An alternative, Bate said, at $450 to $550 to purchase a unit, are personal locator beacons, much like those in maritime use, that alert the Coast Guard and other authorities of trouble at sea, and work anywhere in the world to raise an alarm.
Three climbers who became stranded on Mount Hood in December did not have such a locating device. One climber made a cell phone call to his family, but the phone went dead within days. The three climbers stranded this week had cell phones, and also GPS devices that helped rescue teams home in on them.
Although some Oregon lawmakers have proposed requiring climbers to carry locator devices, many climbers resist the idea, arguing that such a requirement would impinge on their freedom, diminish the adventure of mountaineering, give climbers a false sense of security and probably be impossible to enforce.
The three climbers, with Velvet leaping last into the ambulance, were taken away in an ambulance late Monday.
“We’re soaking wet and freezing,” said one of two rescued women as she walked from a tracked snow vehicle to the ambulance.
One of the women, whose name was not released, was taken to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland where she was being treated for a head injury, said Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department.
“She’s going to be fine,” he said.
Two others, Matty Bryant, 34, a teacher in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, and Kate Hanlon, 34, a teacher in the suburb of Wilsonville, were taken to Timberline Lodge on the mountain to rejoin five other members of the climbing party that set out Saturday but ran into bad weather.
The party was separated when the three climbers slipped off a ledge at about 8,300 feet and slid about 500 feet down an incline.
“They’re lucky to be alive after that,” said Strovink.
Someone in the party above then alerted authorities with a cell phone.
Their five companion climbers made it off the mountain Sunday, and were reported in good condition.