On Friday, we hiked to the site of our base camp on a ridge overlooking our route up the West Rib. We started climbing at 1:20 AM, Saturday morning. Knowing there was a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms after 11:00 AM, we planned to climb quickly and be descending before that time. Plans don’t always work out. In the darkness, we ran into a rock wall about midway up the West Rib. Fixing a rope to a few rock anchors and climbing the wall expended an hour of our time. When we hit snow again, crampons went on, and we were on our way up the steep slope. Richard’s crampons were malfunctioning, so he waited for the rest of the group near the top of the West Rib. Our time was running out as I anchored a rope to within 10 feet of the summit at 12:00 noon, just as thunderheads started forming around the upper reaches of the mountain. Except for a cloud layer below us, the skies had been completely clear up to this point. As I waited for a second rope to be brought up, it began to hail, followed by a humming sound coming from the fixed rope. The rest of the team was just reaching the upper end of the rope when I yelled down that we needed to get off the mountain. A few of the climbers were uncomfortable with descending the steep snow field, so we buried a picket as a “dead man” anchor and descent was made while tied with a prusik to the rope. We repeated this process several times until we reached Richard, and then used one more 70-meter length of rope to get to a less-dangerous slope. At times, we were pelted with hail and rain, visibility would drop to less than 100 feet, and our aluminum pickets were making hissing noises from the electricity in the air. Nearby lightning strikes encouraged us not to waste any time on our descent. As we neared the bottom of the snow slope, near where we would cross the frozen north fork of Milk Creek and ascend to our camp on the ridge, one climber lost his footing and slid into a bank of rocks at the edge of a 15-foot cliff. He was stunned, bruised, and slightly battered but it appeared that he would be able to proceed. However, as he was being helped into an upright position, a large rock bounced down the snow from out of the mist above and hit our injured climber in the head. His helmet undoubtedly saved his life, but he sustained a gash in his forehead among other injuries. He appeared to be in shock and needed assistance negotiating the steep, rock and snow-covered terrain. Back at our base camp, our injured climber was fed, hydrated, and kept warm and dry until midnight when he appeared to be recovering. After a night’s rest, we packed up and hiked out to the Pacific Crest Trail, and then on to the trailhead. The hike took longer than expected because our injured climber, although feeling much better than after the previous day’s episode, still needed assistance on rough and steep terrain. After getting medical treatment, including several stitches, he has assured us that he is fine, but says he is through with mountaineering. Thanks to the entire team for helping to get our injured climber out and special thanks goes to Bob who used his Eugene Mountain Rescue skills to provide critical medical assessment and first aid treatment.Members: Brian Hamilton, Marci Hansen, Kevin Jones, Doug Orwick, Bob Kaminski, Richard Lemon.
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