Oregon Army National Guard HH-60M Blackhawk crew assists Harney County Sheriff’s Office with stranded hikers
An Oregon Army National Guard HH-60M Blackhawk crew from Charlie Co., 7-158 Aviation was dispatched from the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Salem to assist the Harney County Sheriff’s office with two stranded hikers on Steens Mountain June 16.
Two climbers were reported stranded on a narrow ledge high up on Steens Mountain late on June 15. The pair reported their location and condition via cell phone. The hikers were thought to not be injured, but faced freezing overnight temperatures, and reportedly had no cold weather gear.
With impending darkness, the Oregon Army National Guard helicopter crew was forced to wait until first light to launch their aircraft. Early the next morning morning, the Oregon Army Guard crew was able to assist with ground rescue operations coordinated by Harney County officials. A Malheur County technical climbing team was also assembled to help in the rescue operations.
According to Harney County Search and Rescue Coordinator Mike Fine, the ridge where the hikers were stranded is surrounded on both sides by a steep drop of thousands of feet. The ridge itself is so narrow, the hikers could barely sit down.
“They had planned to cut over to the top of Wild Horse Lake, but didn’t quite make it before darkness fell,” Fine said. “They were extremely grateful to the helicopter crew for pulling them off the ledge.”
Fine said his office has always received excellent response from rescue crews. The Rescue Ropes Team, which had planned to scale the ridge to assist in the effort, was not needed, as the helicopter arrived on scene in time.
“The (rescue) effort utilized various resources to extract these people from a life-threatening situation,” Fine added. “This could have turned out pretty bad.”
The Oregon Army National Guard aviation unit utilizes the state’s newest asset, the HH-60 “Mike” model Blackhawk helicopter, which is outfitted with the latest technology and rescue equipment, said Oregon Military Department Public Affairs Officer Capt. Stephen Bomar.
The Oregon Army National Guard currently has nine such aircraft, Bomar added.
“Our highly-trained aviation crews continue to assist first responders and are very well trained for exactly this sort of incident,” he said. “This training continues to help keep the citizens of Oregon safe.”