- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. (AP) — Three climbers who tumbled off a ledge on Mount Hood were taken away in an ambulance after they hiked down much of the state’s highest peak with their rescuers — and a dog that may have saved their lives.

“We’re soaking wet and freezing,” said one of two rescued women as she walked from a tracked snow vehicle to an ambulance.

One of the women, whose name was not released, was taken to a Portland hospital and being treated for a head injury, said Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department.

“She’s going to be fine,” he said, noting that she had walked most of the way down the mountain.

Two others, Matty Bryant, 34, a teacher in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, and Kate Hanlon, 34, a teacher in the suburb of Wilsonville, were taken to Timberline Lodge on the mountain to rejoin five other members of the climbing party, he said.

Rescuers using an electronic locating device found the three climbers and their black Labrador, Velvet, yesterday morning in the White River Canyon, where they had holed up overnight at about 7,400 feet, officials said. The crew hiked with them down the east flank of the 11,239-foot mountain; on the way down, the climbers got into a tracked snow vehicle that took them to the ambulance.

“The dog probably saved their lives” by lying across them during the cold night, said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team. He described the wind in the canyon as “hellacious.”

The two women left the snow vehicle first, followed by Mr. Bryant and the dog. The three climbers boarded the ambulance, and Velvet leaped in after them.

In addition to the dog, who provided warmth and comfort, rescuers attributed the happy outcome to the climbers’ use of an electronic mountain locator unit that guided searchers to their exact position.

“That’s why it is a rescue, not a recovery,” Lt. Nick Watt of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said at a press conference at Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at 6,000 feet. “They did everything right.”

The three climbers were members of an eight-person party that set out on Saturday, camped on the mountain that night and had started back down on Sunday when they ran into bad weather, officials said.

As they were descending, the three slipped off a ledge at about 8,300 feet. Someone in the party used a cell phone to place an emergency call to authorities.

“My understanding is that they are experienced rock climbers, but not necessarily experienced in mountain climbing,” Mr. Gubele said.

The five other members of the their climbing party were rescued Sunday and taken down to Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at the 6,000-foot level of Mount Hood, and all are reported in good condition, the sheriff’s office said in an e-mail.

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