Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Climber falls from Elephant’s Perch

Patient transferred to Boise

Express Staff Writer

Six agencies coordinated the rescue of an injured mountain climber near the Elephant's Perch in the Sawtooth Mountains south of Stanley on Monday night.

Custer County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mike Talbot said he believed the climber—who had apparently been climbing solo—had reportedly already ascended the Perch and fell on the descent.

Talbot said he had sustained serious injuries, including a broken collarbone and swelling or lumps on the spine. It appears that he had moved, he said.

"[Some hikers] came upon him at Saddleback Lake," Talbot said. "I can only assume he did [move] until he could not move any further. I gather it was pretty severe."

Custer County was alerted to the incident after Blaine County Emergency Communications received a call from a man who said his friends had been hiking near the lake and found the 35-year-old male climber.

Blaine County contacted Custer County, but Talbot said Custer County resources were tied up on a rescue of a biker, so they alerted other agencies for help.

Talbot said Custer County was joined by Custer County Search and Rescue, Sawtooth Search and Rescue and the U.S. Forest Service.


Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said the Ketchum-Sun Valley Backcountry Medical Team was also requested at about 2:40 p.m. The team consists of volunteer firefighters from the Sun Valley Fire Department and Ketchum Fire Department, who Elle said were joined by a volunteer from Wood River Fire & Rescue.

Getting the patient out proved to be a challenge, Elle said. A quick-response team was not able to reach the patient until about 4:30 p.m., and only after taking a Custer County Sheriff's boat across Redfish Lake and hiking about two and half miles.

He said the remoteness of the location made it difficult for crews to remove the patient.

However, he said an Air St. Luke's air ambulance was able to land near the patient and Ketchum personnel loaded him into the helicopter. He was transported to Boise at 7:37 p.m., and Elle and Talbot said their crews were clear of the area by 10 p.m.

"Had they not been able to use aircraft, they would have had to spend the night lowering the patient through the rocks to the Redfish Creek trail," Elle said. "It would have been a long, tedious, dangerous operation had they had to do that at night."

Kate Wutz:

Editor's note: Later information recieved from the climber's son, Dennis L. Duenas, indicates that the climber was not soloing. The 43-year-old Bozeman resident was climbing with his son and fell while ascending Elephant's Perch. The climber and his son walked to Saddleback Lake, where they were found by hikers Greg and Liza Wilson. The climber was transferred to St. Alphonsus in Boise, where he is still being treated for spinal injuries.

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