SISTERS, Ore. - A 66-year-old Portland man was injured in a fall near the 10,358-foot summit of South Sister Monday afternoon, prompting a tricky ground and air rescue effort that took until early Tuesday to conclude, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.
Deschutes County 911 received a call around 3:40 p.m. reporting that Steve Bachelder had fallen while descending from the summit of South Sister and sustained injuries that rendered him unable to continue his descent under his own power, said Deputy Jeff Winters, assistant Sheriff’s Search and Rescue coordinator.
Bachelder was reported to be on the climber's trail between the false summit lake and the true summit, Winters said.
Deschutes County Sheriff's SAR was notified immediately, Winters said. A total of 13 volunteers and one deputy responded to the call.
A hasty team of two DCSO SAR members with advanced life-saving training were taken by an AirLink helicopter and dropped off several hundred meters from Bachelder, while 11 other members started hiking in from the Devils Lake trailhead, packing a wheeled litter and additional rescue gear.
Upon reaching Bachelder and assessing his non-life-threatening injuries and mobility, the hasty team determined that an air ambulance would be needed to safely extricate him from the mountain. However, the area where Bachelder was located proved impossible to land a helicopter, Winters said.
Lightning was seen in the area, he said, and the hasty team decided moving Bachelder down to a lower elevation would need to be accomplished as soon as possible, and they wouldn't be able to wait for the litter team to arrive.
With the help of fellow climbers on scene, the hasty team moved Bachelder down to the false summit lake and requested AirLink respond to evaluate that area as a suitable landing zone.
But when AirLink arrived, the false summit proved insufficient for landing, and they diverted to a landing zone about a mile away and 1500 feet lower in elevation.
Around 9 p.m., the litter team met up with the hasty team at the false summit. Bachelder was packaged into the litter and the SAR team began moving him down the trail to the waiting AirLink helicopter.
At 11:45 p.m., the SAR teams reported they had reached the helicopter and passed Bachelder's care off to the flight medics. Bachelder was flown to St. Charles Bend for treatment.
The DCSO SAR members then hiked out to the trailhead and returned to Bend, arriving back at their headquarters around 2:30 a.m.