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Searchers find, rescue Three Sisters Wilderness hiker


A Portland man reported overdue on a backpacking trip in the Three Sisters Wilderness became the subject of a successful two-county search and rescue effort Tuesday, and was recovering at a Bend hospital.

When rescuers reached Christopher Ray, 34, he suffering from a medical emergency and was being helped by three people also hiking in the area, authorities said.

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue got a call shortly after 9 p.m. Monday from Ray’s wife, Sara Ray, reporting him overdue from his trip, said Lt. Bryan Husband. She said he left Friday on a planned multi-day trip around the Irish Mountain Lake Loop, which she believed started near Cultus Lake.

Sara Ray said she’d communicated with her husband by text on Saturday and Sunday, and although the trip was going well, he thought he would be home Monday, a day earlier than originally planned. But when she didn’t hear from him Monday, she became concerned about his welfare, Husband said.

Sara Ray said her husband was an experienced backpacker, was appropriately clothed for the weather and had food, water and supplies to last him well into Tuesday.

“He had been in the area before,” Husband added.

Without a known emergency, authorities planned to start searching the area Tuesday morning, Husband said.

Around 10 a.m. Tuesday, a sheriff’s deputy found Ray’s car parked at the Cultus Lake Trailhead. Husband said Ray’s cellphone was pinged and returned with a last known location about 15 miles northeast of the Cultus Lake Trailhead, in Lane County, logged on Monday.

Lane County SAR, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, were contacted and began helping search roads and trails in the area of the cellphone ping location.

With no roads to access the area from the Deschutes County side, two DCSO SAR volunteers were deployed on horseback from the Cultus Lake Trailhead, Husband said. They found him around 2 p.m., about 1/3 mile south of Muskrat Lake on the Winopee Lake Trail.

Ray was experiencing a medical emergency, and was being helped by three other people who were recreating in the area. He was unable to continue on his own, Husband said, so seven more SAR volunteers and a deputy were sent to the area to help provide medical care and a wheeled litter to bring him out.

The added SAR volunteers went to the west end of Cultus Lake by vehicle and hiked nearly two miles to Ray’s location with the wheeled litter. He was secured in the litter and brought back to the west end of Cultus Lake, where a sheriff’s marine deputy was standing by to take Ray across the lake.

Air Link responded to a landing zone at the Cultus Lake parking lot and stood by until Ray arrived around 7:30 p.m. and was placed on the helicopter, Husband said. He was flown to St. Charles Bend, where a house supervisor said he was in fair condition Tuesday night.

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