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Bend cave hiker climbs wall, falls, prompting rescue


A 21-year-old Bend man who decided to climb a nearly vertical wall at Hidden Forest Cave southeast of Bend Thursday night fell 10 to 12 feet and was injured, prompting a late-night rescue operation led by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue.

County 911 dispatchers got a call just after 9:30 p.m. reporting that Erik Siefken had fallen while hiking at the bottom of the cave, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries and needing assistance in getting out of the area, said Deputy Jeff Winters, assistant SAR coordinator.

Hidden Forest Cave is located near Arnold Ice Cave off China Hat Road, near milepost 13, Winters said. It’s “a large, deep depression in the ground and is not a traditional cave, in the sense that it lacks an underground tunnel that is accessible to the public,” Winters said in a news release.

Much of the cave has vertical or nearly vertical rock walls that rise about 25 feet from the cave floor, the deputy said. The south end of the cave has a steep hiking trail that leads to the bottom. Most of the bottom of the cave is covered with large, loose lava rock boulders, Winters added.

Siefken reportedly had been hiking in the bottom of the cave with his wife and tried to climb one of the nearly vertical walls. Winters said he lost his grip or footing and fell about 10 to 12 feet to the cave floor, where he remained, waiting for rescue.

The sheriff’s office SAR unit was activated around 10 p.m., and about an hour later, an advance team of a deputy, a SAR rescue leader and a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer located Siefken and made an initial assessment of his injuries and overall condition. Winters said they confirmed his injuries were not life threatening, but that he would need to b transported out to the parking area.

Around 11:30 p.m., the remaining team of 17 volunteer rescuers reached Siefken and began preparing him for transport. After he was loaded into a wheeled litter, the volunteers moved Siefken over the boulder field and out of the cave, about a quarter-mile away, Winters said.

“Due to the rugged terrain, it was necessary to physically carry Siefken much of the way,” Winters added.

After reaching the parking area, Siefken was turned over to medics from Bend Fire and Rescue for transport to St. Charles Bend, where he was treated for his injuries.

“The sheriff’s office would like to urge the public to exercise due caution when recreating in wilderness areas,” Winters concluded.

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