FALLING ROCK, PARTY SEPARATED–CLIMBING ALONE, EXCEEDING ABILITIES
Oregon, North Sister
On July 10, three people, including Matt Gorman, were climbing the North Sister. The terrain became more technical than Mr. Gorman’s climbing com-
panions were comfortable with, so they proceeded back down the route of ascent. Mr. Gorman elected to continue to the summit alone. While on the west face of the mountain in one of several large, exposed, and unstable gullies, a large (500-800 pound) boulder slid out from under him. He said he then “rode” the rock a short distance before he was ejected off it and went end over end several times. He came to rest in a gully several hundred feet below the summit. His two friends heard him yelling for help and called 911 via cell phone.
The response was from Lane County (Eugene Mountain Rescue), with an assist from Deschutes Co. SAR. Due to the fact that we did not know the extent of the subject’s injuries and that he was seven to eight hours away from ground search personnel, we elected to send in a helicopter for extraction.
Matt Gorman was wearing a climbing helmet, and that may have saved his life. Injuries were a broken finger, strained knee with various bruises, and lacerations. He also lost his backpack during the accident. This left him with no survival gear if he had had to spend the night.
A need to be aware of the loose volcanic rock of the Cascade Mountains and the consequences of climbing solo and within your abilities are only a couple of the lessons that can be learned from incident. (Source: John K. Miller, Search and Rescue Coordinator—Police Services Division, Lane County Sheriff’s Office)