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National Guard helicopter crew hoists stranded climber from slopes of South Sister

Guard helicopter hoists South Sister climber 412-2
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office
Oregon Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew hoisted stranded climber off north face of South Sister late Monday afternoon
South Sister rescue climber ledge spot 412
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office
Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue points to precarious ledge where climber hung on for 7 hours Monday

Was stranded on precarious ledge, 9,800 feet up peak's north side

(Update: DCSO SAR identifies climber, gives details of rescue)

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A Beaverton man climbing South Sister alone called 911 for help Monday morning when he got stuck on a small, precarious ledge at 9,800 feet elevation, prompting a challenging, day-long rescue effort in which an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter crew hoisted him to safety, officials said.

Deschutes County 911 received the call shortly before 9 a.m., from Stephen Lamb, 49, reporting he had been climbing alone up the north side of South Sister, said Sgt. Nathan Garibay, the agency’s emergency services manager.

High on the 10,358-foot-tall peak, Lamb said he found himself in the precarious spot, in “very steep terrain,” unable to continue to ascend or to climb back down, Garibay said.

“Snow, ice and poor rock prevented him from being able to move from his position,” Garibay said in a news release.

Two special services deputies responded to begin initial planning of the rescue effort. It was clear early on it would require technical rescuers from SAR’s Mountain Rescue Unit, Garibay said.

An AirLink helicopter flew three SAR volunteers to the summit, also making a second flight to ferry more rescuers and a third to help locate Lamb, a process that took several hours.

Meanwhile, six other SAR volunteers responded by snowmobile to the Devil’s Lake Trailhead to support the mission; five other volunteers supported the incident managers, Garibay said. The Oregon Army National Guard also was put on standby for a hoist rescue.

To reach Lamb, rescuers had to go about 600 feet down a ridge off the northwest side of the mountain, then traverse (move laterally along the slope) about 500 feet east to a location just above the climber, who was located in a narrow chute, Garibay said.

"Helicopter rescue was deemed to be the safest way to get Lamb off the mountain,” Garibay said.

"The snow, ice and rock combination presents travel challenges to gain access in locating the subject's exact location and developing a route, particularly when they're not in an area that's a normal climber's route," Garibay told NewsChannel 21.

About 3:20 p.m., an MRU member rappelled to Lamb, securing him from falling. Rescuers then helped him move to a safer location for the National Guard HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to hoist him from.

Garibay said Lamb was hoisted aboard the helicopter around 4:30 p.m. and flown to Sisters Airport, where a sheriff’s deputy was waiting.

“Lamb was uninjured, but exhausted from the long climb and from holding onto a ledge for over seven hours,” Garibay said.

The sheriff’s office thanked AirLink Critical Care Transport and the Oregon Army National Guard G/1-189 Aviation Regiment “for their professional assistance in this rescue.”

SAR members were still working their way down the mountain Monday evening.

Article Topic Follows: Outdoors

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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