Two male hikers in their 40s set out on what they thought was a loop hike up to Munra Point and then down Ruckle Ridge in the Columbia Gorge on June 27, 2015. After completing the tough climb to the top, they attempted to descend on what they thought was the loop trail, but the trail faded and they lost their way, possibly because they had not properly understood the route and the distance between Munra Point and Ruckle Ridege. They were tired and thirsty and decided to descend a steep slope to a creek below, which was Tanner Creek. They made the difficult descent and quenched their thirst, but they were disoriented and fatigued. They were unable to get cell phone reception to call for help. It was a clear evening, so they decided to spend the night where they were and find their way out in the morning.
Sunday morning, they attempted to find a way out, but the creek is at the bottom of a steep canyon, and cliffs and waterfalls prevented them from following the creek out. Mid-morning they were able to get a weak cell phone signal and called for a rescue. Through a return call, the Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office was able to get coordinates for their location and told them to stay put. The deputies requested an aerial search, and Hood River Search and Rescue put a search plane in the air. Upon hearing the plane, the subjects moved to a location that had clear visibility from the air and waved to the plane. The pilot confirmed their location and provided GPS coordinates for searchers. The deputies first deployed Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue (PNSAR), whose teams searched for the subjects much of the morning, but with the confirmed location of the subjects at the bottom steep slopes, the deputies requested assistance from Portland Mountain Rescue at approximately noon.
PMR fielded its first team of five rescuers who left base around 1:30 p.m. and traveled by car up a limited access fire road to a position above the east side of the creek. From a location directly up slope of the subjects’ reported position, the PMR team descended 1000 feet down steep slopes to the creek. Up reaching the creek, the team split to search both sides of the creek toward the reported location. They quickly located the subjects around 2:15 p.m. resting on a tiny beach above a waterfall.
The subjects were tired and hungry but in good spirits. A medical doctor on the PMR team assessed the two subjects and found no injuries or medical conditions that would require a litter evacuation. After consuming food and water provided by the rescuers, the two subjects felt they could tackle the climb out with guidance and assistance from the rescuers. At this point, two members of PNSAR also reached the subjects and helped. A second team of PMR rescuers was positioned on the fire road with litters, ropes and technical gear, but that equipment was not needed.
The climb out of the canyon was quite steep, but the team safely, belaying themselves by grasping trees and other sturdy vegetation. Due to the subjects’ fatigue, the going was slow, but they made it back to the fire road in about two hours. By 6:00 the subjects and all rescuers were safely back at base.