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Washington, South Skokomish River

Washington, South Skokomish River. Though not an alpine accident, the rescue is included because it required technical mountain rescue methods. On March 16th, four skin divers in wet suits were floating down this fast river gorge on two-man rubber rafts. At 4:00 P.M. one raft capsized, splitting the party. In trying to climb out for aid, Elizabeth Hammond fell, fracturing a knee cap, and was unable to continue. When discovered by her companions, they found an easier route out and summoned aid.

The Mason County Sheriff notified Mountain Rescue shortly before midnight, and Seattle and Olympic units were dispatched. A cable system was placed at the top of the gorge and approximately 450 feet of 3/16-inch cable was used to lower a three-man team with bergtraga and radio. The leg was splintered, and by instruction from a doctor at the top, 1 c.c. intravenous and 2 c.c. muscular injections of Demeral were administered at 3:30 A.M. The lift was made with the ’traga in a vertical position with one man below it and one man on each side on separate ropes. One of the two side men was belayed and hauled up by men from above; the other ascended by Prussics on a fixed rope. Evacuation was completed from the top of the gorge by helicopter.

Analysis: The cable system was essential for this operation. The fixed rope and Prussic belay was superior to the hauled up belay. Difficulty was encountered with drag on the cable going over obstacles; and an efficient winch system would have been helpful. Mechanical improvements of the cable system will be necessary to prevent damage when working over obstacles. Floodlights and a bull horn stationed on a bridge were ineffective due to distance and noise of the river, but these techniques have been utilized very effectively on faces near roads.