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News Release
Four climbers rescued by search and rescue crews in steep terrain (Photo) - 04/30/21

Four climbers were rescued near Wahclella Falls Trail during a large, joint search and rescue operation overnight.

On Friday, April 30, 2021, at 12:25 a.m., Multnomah County patrol deputies received a report that four climbers were stuck on the side of a cliff and needed rescue in the Columbia River Gorge. The climbers reported that they were canyoneering and entered from the Wahclella Falls Trailhead. The climbers, who are not from the area, took the Gorge 400 Trail and traversed rocky bluffs to Munra Creek, a steep canyon featuring a series of cascading waterfalls. The climbers were equipped with ropes and safety equipment, and were appropriately dressed.

After tying off, they ran into complications when a rope became stuck during their descent. One climber became separated from the party and was stranded between two waterfalls. The two waterfalls are estimated to be 50 and 65 feet tall. The climbers tried to troubleshoot the situation, but were unable to safely exit the area. After several hours, and nightfall, the climbers called for help, and stayed put. Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue (MCSO SAR) responded. Due to the extreme terrain, MCSO contacted Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office to activate Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR), a volunteer group of highly skilled climbers that have experience in mountainous terrain.

With the assistance of MCSO SAR, four PMR members familiar with the Munra Creek canyon trekked to the location of the stranded climbers, following a similar route. Meanwhile, a ground team of PMR and MCSO SAR members hiked to the location of the separated climber.

The three climbers were relieved to see PMR rescuers, as they were running low on food. By this point, the climbers had spent nearly 10 hours in the canyon. Because of the climbers’ fatigue, rescuers decided to lower the trio, rather than risk climbing steep canyon walls.

The ground team reached the separated climber, as rescuers began lowering the climbers down the side of the 50-foot waterfall. Once reunited, MCSO SAR and PMR guided the climbers down across a stream and down a rocky slope near Munra Falls to the Wahclella Falls Trailhead. The four climbers returned to their cars at approximately 6:15 a.m., around 12 hours after leaving the trailhead. They were evaluated on scene and released.

Canyoneering is becoming an increasingly popular activity in the Northwest, and the Columbia River Gorge is an attractive destination because of the combination of steep terrain and picturesque scenery. We encourage those who canyoneer to research and visit locations prior to climbing, identify a climbing route, carry all necessary gear, including emergency equipment, and develop an emergency plan. Share the plan with a member outside your party who is not participating, as well as emergency contact information. Rescuers find that many climbers are not prepared for the amount of water found in creeks and waterfalls year-round. This area was also impacted by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017, and the terrain is constantly changing, quickly dating even recent trip reports from prior climbers and hikers.

As we near summer, many trails are still snow covered and have not been cleared or maintained since last fall. Before you leave home, it is suggested that you always carry a first aid kit in your car and bring the Ten Essentials with you on the trail, even if you are only going out for the day.

Ten Essentials for the outdoors:

  • Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger
  • Headlamp or flashlight: plus, extra batteries
  • Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
  • First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
  • Knife: plus, a gear repair kit
  • Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove
  • Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
  • Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation
  • Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation
  • Extra clothes: Beyond the minimum expectation

We want to thank all of the first responders and many volunteers that helped with this response:

  • Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue
  • Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Search & Rescue
  • Portland Mountain Rescue

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue program is a 100% volunteer organization, comprised of approximately 50 very dedicated, trained volunteers, including both youth and adults. MCSO SAR is recruiting new members. Click here if you would like to learn more about MCSO SAR.

Portland Mountain Rescue is one of the many mountain rescue units in the country that function under the auspices of the international Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). These subsidiary units, like Portland Mountain Rescue, consist of a volunteer group of highly skilled climbers and enthusiastic support resources that are dedicated to getting people out of trouble in mountainous and high-angle areas. Click here if you would like to learn more about PMR.

Reporters interested in interviewing a Portland Mountain Rescue member can do so by contacting the MCSO PIO.


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