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Injured woman rescued after fall on Broken Top Mountain

Climber rescued from Broken Top summit after fall - Deschutes Co. Sheriff's Office photo

SUNRIVER, Ore. – A woman is recovering in the hospital after she fell Sunday while climbing Broken Top Mountain in the Oregon Cascades.

The Army National Guard airlifted the woman, identified as Sarah Rask, from the mountain to an area hospital. She suffered significant injuries; no word on her current condition.

Deschutes County Search & Rescue was called out about 9:40 a.m. on reports that Rask had fallen near the mountain’s summit.

Initial reports state she unintentionally left the trail and lost her footing. Witnesses said she reached out to grab a rock “about the size of a mini fridge,” but it gave way. She fell about 25 feet and the rock rolled over her as it continued down the mountain.

"Where she tumbled to was, to a location that was right above a fairly cliffed-out area, at least 70 feet," Search & Rescue Coordinator Lt. Bryan Husband said. "She and her climbing partner did crawl a short distance to a more flat area. There really isn’t a flat area up there, but they were able to crawl about 15 feet to a ledge and anchor-in."

Officials said 17 Deschutes County SAR volunteers went out to get Rask, and they asked for support from the Army National Guard helicopter. Another volunteer who was at the nearby South Sister also went to help with the rescue. He traversed the mountain and got to her within a few hours.

Portland's Vic Whitacre offered perspective. He's climbed Broken Top more than a dozen times and has led several groups to the top. He says the mountain is an ancient, glaciated strato-volcano, which is craggy by nature and challenging to climb.

"With so much of the mountain always in a state of decay and falling," Whitacre told KATU, "the object of danger with Broken Top is going to be rockfall, and hand-holds that seem solid, or at times, unfortunately aren't."

Whitacre - who works at Oregon Mountain Community - says Broken Top is not particularly technical, but recommends hikers receive training from mountaineering organizations before attempting to summit the mountain.

"There is this thing called objective risk," Whitacre said. "Some of those you can't manage, and some of those you can, and unfortunately this sounds like, from what I understand, probably one of those incidents."

According to Search & Rescue volunteers, Rask is an experienced mountaineer, and was climbing with a partner and had the appropriate gear.

The sheriff's office says the lack of cell service on the mountain's west side slowed the response time. They recommend carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB), which does not need cell service to call for help. PLBs send your GPS coordinates via satellite to dispatchers, alerting them of an emergency.

"I always hate hearing about people having injured themselves out there," Whitacre said. "I always hope for the best."

More from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office:

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Army National Guard for their assistance. The Sheriff’s Office would also like to thank the citizens who provided vital information to Sheriff’s Office personnel as well as assistance to Sarah while waiting for first responders to arrive on scene.

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