BEND, Ore. - An 82-year-old Bend man who hikes up South Sister alone each year did so again Sunday, but was caught by darkness on the descent and spent the night on the peak. A call Monday from concerned hikers and later contact with a Forest Service wilderness ranger led to a decision to fly him off the mountain, even though he was unhurt and didn't seek help.
Around 12:30 p.m. Monday, the Deschutes National Forest office got a call from a couple of hikers who were heading up the 10,358-foot peak and had come across a hiker identified as Robert Haynes, 82. They said was making his way down the mountain "at an unusually slow pace," said Deschutes County sheriff's Deputy Jim Whitcomb, assistant search and rescue coordinator.
The Forest Service then advised the sheriff's office of a potential SAR mission, he said.
Phone interviews with several hikers helped deputies determine that Haynes had begun his climb Sunday morning and was able to reach the summit, but it had turned too dark to continue until the next morning.
On Sunday, Haynes borrowed a cellphone occasionally to call his wife, telling her he was fine and was spending the night on the summit before starting the descent.
When several concerned citizens talked with Haynes Sunday and Monday, he was not seeking help and told them he'd be able to summit and get back down the mountain on his own, Whitcomb said.
A Forest Service wilderness ranger who was in the area contacted Haynes about an hour after the call Monday afternoon and determined Haynes should not continue the descent on his own, the deputy said.
Haynes was not injured and was given water and food, since he had run out of supplies. Haynes said he had been able to stay warm during the night by exercising, but Whitcomb said he "had brought with him only the bare necessities for this long of a hike."
Several updates from the ranger indicated more help would be needed to get Haynes down the trail, and that even then, it could take the rest of the night, Whitcomb said.
Around 6 p.m., a three-member SAR team responded to help the ranger in the slow trek down the mountain. Meanwhile, Whitcomb said, eight other SAR members were going to be en route with a wheeled litter, in case he was no longer able to walk.
By then, the ranger had help from about a half-dozen people, including a medical professional, who had stopped and agreed to help with Haynes' descent, Whitcomb said.
"The consensus at this time was that Haynes, although not asking for assistance, could not be allowed to continue without at a minimum a wheeled litter, based on the potential of an injury," Whitcomb wrote in a news release.
After the on-scene personnel spoke more with Haynes, "he agreed he would like to be flown out by a helicopter, if the option were to be available," the deputy said.
Incident commanders decided such a flight would be the safest way to bring Haynes down the rest of the way, "as well as for all the rescuers involved," Whitcomb added.
An AirLink helicopter picked up Haynes shortly before 8 p.m. and took him to St. Charles-Bend, where he was met by his wife and given a medical screening, but was not hospitalized.
Whitcomb said the sheriff's office wanted to thank everyone who called and assisted in Haynes' safe descent.
But he also offered a reminder to those who recreate in the mountains "to take the extra time to plan for and be prepared for the unexpected."
He suggested always bringing a means of navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first-aid supplies, a fire-starting method, a repair kit with tools, food, hydration and emergency shelter.
"Last but not least," he said, bring "a cell phone, and make sure someone else knows what your plan is."