A Bend man who slid up to 200 feet down ice and boulders while descending from the summit of South Sister with two friends could no longer walk afterward – and that triggered a complex, all-night rescue by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, involving two air-ambulance helicopters and 26 searchers.
Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, 911 dispatchers got a call from Nicholas Snider, 18, who reported that one of his climbing partners, Ryan Kelly, 20, had fallen while descending from the summit and was unable to walk, said Lt. Scott Shelton, the county’s SAR coordinator.
Snider indicated that he and the third climbing partner, James Taylor, 23, were trying to help Kelly back to their base camp, near Green Lake, Shelton said.
Snider also said that in order to get cell phone coverage, he had left the other two men at a spot about a half-mile from Green Lake, in an area of steep terrain. He said he planned to return to their location, bringing more food, water and some warm clothes, then would return to base camp to wait for rescuers.
About a dozen SAR members initially responded to the Green Lakes area and the first medical team arrived at the base camp around 9:40 p.m., Shelton said.
Snider tried to lead the team to Kelly’s location, but after it got dark, and not having a GPS for an accurate location, “the rescue quickly turned into a search,” Shelton wrote in a news release.
More search teams arrived around 11:30 p.m. to help in the search, and an AirLink helicopter was called in to help look for Kelly and Taylor, Shelton said. But they had no light source available, and AirLink was unable to find the two climbers.
Shelton said ground search teams found Kelly and Taylor around 2:20 a.m. Thursday and began assessing and treating Kelly, also assuring Taylor was okay, Shelton said.
A request then was made to Life Flight to respond to fly the injured hiker from the area, due to his injuries and location, Shelton said. Life Flight, however, decided around 3:30 a.m. the area was too dangerous to land, due to the darkness and unknown terrain.
Kelly, Taylor and search team members stayed at several locations until daybreak to reassess the possibilities of a ground extraction of Kelly, Shelton said.
More ground searchers and the SAR Mountain Rescue Team responded to the area overnight, developing a plan to remove Kelly on the ground – a tricky operation that Shelton said could have taken another 12 to 16 hours.
While those plans were developed, including seeking mutual assistance from other mountain rescue teams throughout Oregon, Life Flight made a second attempt to find a suitable landing zone in the area.
Shortly before 7:30 a.m., the helicopter crew found an established landing zone area that SAR team members had identified near the injured hiker, Shelton said.
Kelly was flown to St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, where his father said he was treated and released, very “banged up” but leaving on crutches, his leg not broken as feared after all.
SAR teams returned to Bend around 1:30 p.m, Shelton said, noting that 26 SAR volunteers and four deputies were involved in the 20-hour operation.
A debriefing of the hiking party found that the three were returning to their base camp when Kelly lost his footing and slid down an ice field 100 to 200 feet, striking a number of boulders.
Noting that the hikers had limited gear and one cell phone, with only a small amount of battery life, Shelton reminded all recreational users to “be prepared for the unexpected.” He pointed out it took searchers abut four hours from when they left Bend to reach the injured hiker’s location.
Ty Kelly said his son, a Mountain View High School graduate, were with two experienced hikers who helped care for them as best they could. He said his son “couldn’t feel his leg” after the fall.
“Oh man, we’re lucky,” he said after his son left the hospital.
For Deschutes County Sheriff’s SAR, however, their day was not over.
Shortly after 3 p.m., they were called out on a report of an injured mountain biker rider on the “Funner” trail, south of Century Drive near milepost 11, Shelton said. Sheriff’s deputies and Forest Service law enforcement personnel also responded to the scene.
An investigation found that Jesus Ramirez, 33, of Mexico, was riding down the trail when he failed to negotiate one stretch, lost control of his bike and struck a number of rocks.
Ramirez was treated at the scene by his riding partner, Lindsey Voreis, 38, of Bend, for serious but non-life-threatening injuries, Shelton said. Voreis stayed with him and stabilized his injuries while the deputies and others responded.
SAR crews stabilized Ramirez and he was taken by wheeled litter to an ambulance on South Century Drive, from where a Bend Fire and Rescue ambulance took him to the Bend hospital.