The timely arrival of a well-equipped group of skiers and the efforts of three mountain rescue units are being credited for getting an injured hiker off Mount Rainier early Wednesday morning.
According to Glenn Kessler, incident commander for the rescue, a 911 call late Tuesday afternoon was patched through to Mount Rainier dispatch from an injured hiker. The 61-year-old man had slipped on a steep icy slope and fell 50 feet just above Panorama Point, coming to rest after hitting a rock hard enough to result in a compound fracture of both lower leg bones of one leg.
Fortunately, Kessler said, a group of skiers coming down from Camp Muir came upon the injured hiker. The group was better prepared than the majority of backcountry travelers, he said, and they were able to radio park rangers with the GPS coordinates and other pertinent information.
“They then went to great lengths to protect, rewarm and care for the man for several hours of cold and windy conditions while rescuers were summoned to the park to perform a carryout,” Kessler said.
Temperatures during the night fell to the upper 20s, with wind speeds reaching 21 mph.
Teams from Tacoma Mountain Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue and Olympic Mountain Rescue battled high winds as they carried the injured man off the mountain on a rescue litter. The operation included several steep-angle technical roped lowerings down the icy slopes of Panorama Point.
It wasn’t until early Wednesday morning that rescuers were able to get the injured hiker to an ambulance, which took him to a hospital.