A hiker descending from the summit of South Sister fell 10 to 20 feet and was briefly knocked unconscious Wednesday, prompting a rescue effort in which an AirLink helicopter flew Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue medics to the scene, then took the hiker to the hospital.
Deputies were dispatched around noon to the report of a climber who fell while hiking the South Sister trail, about 300 feet below the summit, said Lt. Scott Shelton, search and rescue coordinator.
Oliver Austin, 33, fell 10 to 20 feet as he and hiking partner Lindsey Brammer, also of Bend, were returning from the summit of the 10,358-foot peak, a popular climbing spot in the Central Oregon Cascades.
Shelton said the caller advised that a fellow hiker had been knocked unconscious for a brief period and sustained other minor head injuries.
Fifteen SAR volunteers and two sheriff’s deputies assisted in the rescue, as a team of three medically trained members were flown to the mountain’s summit, made contact with the hiking party and began a medical assessment and stabilizing the patient, Shelton said.
A member of the hiking party and several other hikers in the area helped SAR team members place Austin in a litter and move him to the landing zone at the summit, Shelton said.
Meanwhile, a second team of 11 search and rescue members prepared on the climbers trail near Devils Lake, in case the air operation to rescue the hiker could not be completed, he said.
"We expect four hours to hike to his location, and twice that to get down. So it could be 12 hours," said Paul volunteer SAR Manager Paul Dickman.
Around 2:10 p.m., the helicopter returned to the summit and picked up the hiker for the flight to St. Charles-Bend with what Shelton called non-life-threatening injuries. A nursing supervisor said he was treated and released.
While the ground team returned to Bend, the three who treated the hiker near the summit came down the trail and were expected to return in the early evening.
Shelton said the SAR team wanted to remind backcountry enthusiasts to travel prepared and plan for the unexpected.
The standard route up the South Ridge of the peak is a long, steep, non-technical hike that can be easily completed in a day by reasonably fit hikers. Popular starting points are the Green Lakes or Devil's Lake trailheads.