Rescue on South Sister
Climber was unable to continue up or down
April 22, 2021 | View PDF
SANTIAM PASS: Snow, ice and poor rock were blamed for trapping a man attempting to scale the South Sister last Monday.
According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the 49-year-old Beaverton man was climbing alone up the north side of the South Sister when he found himself in a precarious location. Stephen Lamb told the 911 operator he was unable to either continue up and or climb back down the mountain. Snow, ice and poor rock were preventing him from move away from a small ledge in very steep terrain.
Two Deschutes County Sheriff's Office Special Service Deputies responded to the 9 a.m. call and began initial planning for rescue. They determined the rescue would require technical rescuers from the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Mountain Rescue Unit (MRU). Three Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers were flown by AirLink to the summit of South Sister. AirLink made two more flights ferrying rescuers and a third to assist in locating Lamb.
Six additional SAR volunteers responded to the Devil's Lake Trailhead via snowmobile to support the mission and five additional volunteers supported Incident Management. At the same time, the Oregon National Guard was put on standby for the possibility of a hoist rescue.
Rescuers had to proceed about 600 feet down a ridge off the Northwest side of the mountain and then move laterally along a slope approximately 500 feet East to a location directly above the trapped man. Lamb was located in a precarious location in a narrow chute.
At approximately 3:19 pm, an MRU member rappelled to Lamb and secured him from falling. Due to the precarious location, they assisted him from the chute to a safer location for the Oregon National Guard HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to hoist from.
At approximately 4:30 pm, Lamb was hoisted aboard the helicopter and flown to a waiting Sheriff's Deputy at the Sisters Airport. Lamb was uninjured, but exhausted from the long climb and from holding on to a ledge for over 7 hours. Police said the helicopter rescue had been determine to be the safest method to get the man off the mountain.
The AirLink Critical Care Transport and the Oregon Army National Guard G/1-189 Aviation Regiment aided the rescue efforts.