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Depot Creek Rescue (July 2000)

Helicopter lifting off

Helicopter lifting off

Description of Accident and Rescue


In case Pam has not been able to fill you in, I wanted to let you know that she was injured in the North Cascades on Saturday, July 15, during the approach for an attempt on Mts Redoubt and Spickard. She hurt her foot during a fall on talus in the Upper Depot Creek valley Saturday about 8PM as Pam, Bill Saur, and I were still trying to get to our camp destination at Ouzel Lake. We were tired after about seven hours of sometimes very difficult travel, and as she moved off some sloping slabs back onto steep talus she stepped on some rubble-covered rock and fell. She twisted her ankle as she fell and was unable to support her weight on the foot.

Bill and I assessed the situation, treated her for possible shock, and prepared a bivy site for her. She spent the night using her tent as a bivy sack (it is not self-standing) with Bill and I camped a few feet away. Sunday AM Bill went for help. There was no chance that a horse could get into the valley and we hoped for a helicopter evacuation. I spent the day with Pam.

Bill was careful but made good time getting out and phoned the National Park Service about 2:30 PM Sunday. Bill described the situation to three climbers he met on the way out who were on their way in. They stopped by to visit with Pam and me and relayed the important information that Bill was past the difficult travel portion and most likely had notified the NPS of the need for evacuation.

About 4:30 PM a helicopter arrived, piloted by Jerry of HiLine Helicopters out of Darrington, Washington, and carrying NPS personel Galen Stark and Rosemary Seifried. Galen evaluated the situation and placed an air splint on Pam's injured ankle. With our help Pam was able to move to and climb into the helicopter and she was evacuated to St. Joseph's Hospital in Bellingham that evening.

The helicopter made two trips. Jerry first transported Pam, Galen, and Pam's pack to a location where she could catch an ambulance to Bellingham. Then Jerry returned to pick up Rosemary and the rest of the NPS equipment they had brought.

Pam's injuries included a fractured fibula, a chipped tibia, and a detached ligament. Pam preferred to have surgery in Corvallis, so the Bellingham hospital splinted the injury and arranged for her to stay in a motel Sunday night. Ruth (Bill's wife) picked up Pam the next morning (Monday) as I hiked out and we reunited at Bill and Ruth's. Fortunately, the NPS took Pam's pack with her (I removed sharp objects and the fuel bottle) and Bill had taken a full load with him when he left so I was able to carry the remaining gear out. Bill met me on my way out for the final hike along Depot Creek and back into BC.

Pam and I returned home Tuesday. Pam had an appointment with the Corvallis Clinic Tuesday afternoon and has friends/family for support in Corvallis. I'm sure she will fill us in on her progress when she can.

Bill did a really fine job of hiking out alone with a full load over difficult terrain and heavy responsibility. Pam kept her spirits up and helped with her evacuation to the helicopter. Galen, Rosemary, and Jerry were great, quickly arriving, being friendly and very helpful getting her and her pack evacuated.

Paul McClellan

The Lower Depot Creek Approach to Mount Redoubt

From Beckey, Fred. Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 3, Second Edition, The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1995, pp 392-393:

Depot Creek Trail (B.C). Access this unofficial trail from Depot Creek Road. Take the logging spur that bears up and left on the hillside at 1.9 mi and then turns right toward the Boundary. Depending on conditions, a portion of this spur may be driven 4WD; if hiking, allow about 40 minutes to the Boundary. Here a recent windfall has obliterated a section of c. 200 yards of the climber's trail on the N flank of Depot Creek; bypass the windfall above the trail route unless this has been recut. The trail goes through a dense coniferous forest; before the valley forest turns to brush, the trail veers left onto the slope and then traverses the hillside above the creek for less than 1 mi. After leaving forest, continue across moderately sloping brushy talus, then cross a side creek and soon climb steeply 200 ft (at 3,800 ft) to reach the unforgettable waterfall. Do not make a sharp ascent until the waterfall is in sight.

Where rock is slippery from spray, climb over wet boulders to a platform at the waterfall's base, then go to its left side. A hole in berry bushes leads to a talus slope. Here gain c. 900 ft on talus and steep brushy timber (the last 200 ft is berry bushes). When at the edge of the subalpine basin (c. 4,800 ft), go over the rim's edge and drop a short way; then traverse on talus on the left edge of the basin to avoid brush and the stream. The continuation to Ouzel Lake at the valley head is straightforward. Time: 4-7 hours from road, depending on one's zeal and pack weight.


The Approach

The Upper Depot Creek Valley

The Rescue


North Cascades National Park

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