Mt. Hood climbers tell tale of survival
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
SALEM, Ore. ” The three hikers rescued after a fall and an icy night on Mount Hood said Wednesday their survival techniques included exercise and pep talks.
Matty Bryant and Kate Hanlon, both 34, appeared on television interviews with fellow climber Christina Redl, 26, whose injuries were still apparent with dark bruises around her eyes. Bryant also brought his dog, Velvet, who helped the climbers stay warm as they waited to be found.
“Matty had us go through different kinds of exercises … so our muscles didn’t tense up. He made us eat and drink so we didn’t get dehydrated,” Hanlon said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“We would call 911 on the hour and every half hour, I would ask Matty for another pep talk. He gave these fantastic pep talks,” Hanlon said.
The three climbers set out on Saturday with five other friends ” all in their 20s and 30s and from the Portland area ” to scale the 11,239-foot mountain, Oregon’s tallest.
But as they started their descent in blowing snow Sunday, the three ” roped together with Velvet ” went over an icy ledge.
Redl told NBC’s “Today” she was briefly knocked unconscious, possibly by striking a piece of equipment.
“I was seriously confused after I woke up,” she said.
Realizing she was more seriously injured, her companions said they used a hat to stop Redl’s head wound from bleeding.
“There was quite a bit of blood, so the first thing we wanted to do was stop the bleeding and keep her head warm,” Bryant said on “Today.”
Amid the publicity about Velvet’s role, some experts said taking a pet dog up a mountain for warmth and companionship was foolhardy.
But Bryant said the weather was fine when they started out. “On a fair weather day, it would be an OK trip for a dog,” he told “Good Morning America.” “When the weather turned bad, it certainly was not a good place for a dog.”
Still, everyone was glad she was with them. “She’ll get some extra dog treats,” Bryant said. “Maybe even a nice bone.”
Aiding in the successful outcome was the fact that the climbers had an electronic locator unit that helped rescuers find them. On Tuesday, a state House panel opened hearings in Salem on a bill to require that climbers who intend to go above 10,000 feet on Mount Hood from November through March carry the locators.
“Certainly the timing was right,” Republican State Rep. John Lim, who had introduced the bill after three climbers died in December, told the committee. “Instead of losing lives, they were able to save lives this time.”
But veteran mountaineers urged legislators to reject the bill. Some warned that requiring locators ” easily activated in a crisis ” would foster passivity among climbers.
“They will wait for a rescue, and not do enough to rescue themselves,” said Leslie Brown, a spokeswoman for Access Fund, a national mountaineering group.
Another said nothing can replace basic common sense when it comes to keeping people safe.
“Pulling the cord (on a locator unit) doesn’t turn the sky black with helicopters coming to pick you up,” said Scott Russell, a veteran of numerous search-and-rescue operations. “Self-reliance and knowledge are what’s going to keep you alive on the mountain.”
The devices weigh 8 ounces and cost a rental fee of $5, hardly a physical or financial burden, Lim said.
Lim said he introduced the bill mainly in response to December’s climbing accident in which three out-of-state men perished after they got caught in a blizzard near the summit of Mount Hood.
Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler, who led the rescue effort in December, said requiring all climbers to have locators would cut down on the cost of rescues and reduce the risk to the searchers.
“My allegiance is with the search and rescue volunteers,” he said. “As a sheriff, I’m responsible for these guys. Anything I can do to reduce the risk to them, I’m all for it.”
In Tuesday’s hearing, however, the climbers emphasized the argument that requiring the locators would give many climbers a false sense of security in an inherently dangerous sport.
“Mountaineering is all about judgment and making good choices,” said Rocky Henderson, a team leader with Portland Mountain Rescue.
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