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An Oregon Army National Guard helicopter was used to rescue an injured climber off Mount Washington on Monday. The woman fell while rappelling, and spent the night in freezing conditions.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office and an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter rescued a 20-year-old Bend woman who was injured in a climbing accident on Sunday and spent the night on Mount Washington, where temperatures dipped below freezing.

Sheriff Bruce Riley said Sarah Ford was hiking and climbing alone, and he believed she was rappelling from the summit of the peak in the dark when she was struck in the head with a rock and fell about 15 feet.

“It is very dangerous to go on something like that alone. … I think she is extremely lucky,” Riley said.

He added that precarious footing and other conditions on mountains, such as extreme weather shifts, can prove treacherous.

Riley said Ford also had only 1 percent left on her cellphone battery when she got a call through to Deschutes County 9-1-1 at about midnight.

Riley suggested that hikers and climbers heading into remote areas use spot locators that are tracked by GPS, and which can set off an alert if a user gets into trouble.

Hikers also should tell someone of their itinerary and plan on spending the night in case of an emergency, Riley said.

When Ford called 9-1-1, she reported that she was caught in a rock slide and unable to help herself out, according to police logs. She also believed she may have lost consciousness.

The news release states that she seriously injured her left knee in the fall.

The initial 9-1-1 call was handled by Deschutes County, which was able to capture Ford’s cellphone location to within a half-mile. Attempts to recontact her by phone were unsuccessful, possibly due to her low battery. The information about the incident was then relayed to Linn County at 12:14 a.m. Monday, police logs indicate.

Deputies, 14 members of LCSO Search and Rescue, three LCSO Posse members — who had just celebrated the volunteer organization’s 70th anniversary — and six climbers of the Corvallis Mountain Rescue team responded to the area. They searched throughout the night, locating Ford at 6:49 a.m.

She was hoisted into the Oregon Army National Guard helicopter at about noon.

Mount Washington stands near the border of Linn and Deschutes counties. Ford entered the Mount Washington wilderness area at about 1 p.m. Sunday via the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead on the Old Santiam Wagon Road, according to the news release.

She fell while rappelling about 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Ford hiked about three-quarters of a mile after the fall but was unable to continue to walk any longer.

Ford was transported by helicopter to RiverBend hospital in Springfield.

Riley said this summer and early fall has been busy for his Search and Rescue team volunteers.

“It’s not a walk in the park when we go do these rescues. … We’re really risking our lives to a certain degree every time we respond to these incidents,” Riley said.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard. 


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