Three hikers who lost the trail near Mirror Lake west of Bend on Sunday called 911 for help, prompting a call-out of rescuers who were able to bring them back to the trailhead several hours later.
Deschutes County 911 got a call for help around 12:15 p.m. from Rachelle Nichols, 30, of Bend, who said she was hiking with two friends – Brandy Fratto, 33, of Bend, and Kristin Brenner, 31, of Eugene – and they had lost the trail.
They were about five miles west of the Mirror Lake Trailhead, which is located just north of Elk Lake on the Cascade Lakes Highway, said Deputy Jeff Winters, assistant SAR coordinator.
Nichols reported the three were dressed properly for the weather and had adequate food and water, a map and a compass, but weren’t prepared to spend the night in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
The 911 dispatchers were able to obtain coordinates from the phone ping, and using a GPS application on her smartphone, Nichols was able to confirm the group’s general location, Winters said.
Sheriff’s SAR was notified a short time later. Winters said that due to poor cellphone coverage and the potential to lose contact with the group, they decided the safest solution was to have the group stay put and send rescuers to find them.
Around 3 p.m., a group of eight SAR volunteers with medical training and backcountry experience, along with a sheriff’s deputies, assembled at the Mirror Lake and Devil’s Lake trailheads, with a rescue plan in place. A team of three SAR volunteers left the Devil’s Lake trailhead, while four others set out from the Mirror Lake trailhead.
Around 4:45 p.m., the Mirror Lake trailhead team found the three women and reported back to SAR command that all were well and they were heading to the trailhead under their own power, Winters said.
Both SAR teams and the three hikers around back at the Mirror Lake trailhead parking lot around 7 p.m. and the hikers were interviewed by a deputy before leaving.
During the interview, the sheriff’s office learned that the three subjects had prepared well for a warm summer day trip, but hadn’t prepared to comfortably survive overnight if their trip didn’t go as planned, Winters said in a news release.
The group lacked adequate warm clothing and or sleeping bags for the cold temperatures the wilderness experiences overnight.
To their credit, he said, the group was praised for their decision to call for assistance as soon as they realized they were lost rather than wandering farther away from help. The group followed the instructions of the SAR team to stay put and wait for rescue.
"The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public not to underestimate the possibility of things to go wrong on a simple day hike and the danger of going into the wilderness under-experienced or under-prepared," Winters wrote. "Remember at a minimum to always carry the 10 essentials when going into the backcountry."
1) Navigation (map and compass)
2) Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
3) Insulation (extra clothing)
4) Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
5) First-aid supplies
6) Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
7) Repair kit and tools
8) Nutrition (extra food)
9) Hydration (extra water)
10) Emergency shelter