North Cascades National Park Ranger, Helicopter Pilot Honored For Rescue Of Injured Climber

In July, 2009, a party of four mountaineers were halfway up Mount Terror's North Buttress route when the lead climber fell and was left dangling upside down on the rope, semi-conscious with a femur fracture and head injury. His partners situated him on a ledge approximately one-foot wide, and while one of the climbers stayed behind to provide care, the two others continued up the mountain into cell phoen range to call for assistance. The injured climber was evacuated that evening during a careful, and life-saving, short-haul operation and bad weather forced the other climber to await four days for his rescue. Photo and graphic credit: Steph Abegg

A ranger from North Cascades National Park] and a helicopter pilot have been honored by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for their efforts in rescuing an injured climber in July 2009.

The following is an account of the rescue from park officials:

Ranger Kevork Arackellian and pilot Anthony Reece, co-owner of Darrington, Washington-based Hi Line Helicopters, were honored by the Interior secretary last week. Mr. Reece received the Citizen’s Award for Bravery and while Ranger Arackellian received the Interior Department's Valor Award.

The two men conducted one of the most challenging rescues in the history of the North Cascades National Park Search and Rescue program. In July 2009, a party of four mountaineers were climbing 8,151-foot Mount Terror when the lead climber fell and was left dangling upside down on the rope, semi-conscious with a femur fracture and head injury. His partners situated him on a ledge approximately 1-foot wide, and while one of the climbers stayed behind to provide care, the two others continued up the mountain into cell phone range to call for assistance.

Since the injured climber’s injuries were life-threatening and his location was inaccessible by a ground team, a short-haul rescue -- in which a ranger and the injured party are suspended below a helicopter -- was planned. In fading evening light, pilot Reece moved Ranger Arackellian, attached to the helicopter with a 100-foot short-haul line, precisely to the rock face where the two climbers were anchored.

Mr Reece held the aircraft in a hover next to the sheer cliff while Ranger Arackellian attached the injured man to the short-haul line, cut him away from two rock anchors, and handed off a pack of supplies to the other climber. After slowly moving the ranger and patient away from the cliff, the pilot then flew them, still hanging from the short-haul line, over ten miles to transfer the patient to a medical helicopter.

This evacuation saved the injured climber’s life.

Poor weather then moved in and prevented the evacuation of the remaining climber, who had stayed behind with the injured man. Only after this climber had endured four days of rain and snow did the weather clear enough for Reece and Ranger Arackellian to successfully perform the same risky maneuver to rescue him during a very short flyable window of weather, with fog and clouds still clinging to the cliffs above the accident site.

“Kevork is an outstanding ranger and a great representative of the skilled and public service-minded staff of North Cascades National Park,” said North Cascades Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “I have flown with Anthony and know first-hand that he is a skilled and safe pilot. I am extremely proud of both Kevork and Anthony, but also of the park’s entire Search and Rescue staff and their partners, including Hi-Line Helicopters.”

Comments

Congratulations to Ranger Arackellian and Mr. Reece - and to all the others who supported this mission - for a difficult job well done!