By Courtney O’Keefe, Director of Communications, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, October 11, 2021.
The Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) Unit and volunteers from Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SCVSAR) completed a 20-hour overnight rescue mission on Three Fingers Mountain on Monday, October 11th.
Around 11:00 am on Sunday, SAR received an InReach Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) SOS activation near 6,800 feet on Three Fingers Mountain.
Two hikers were stranded due to a strong weather system that caused whiteout conditions and heavy snow, making the trail too treacherous for them to continue climbing down.
Since it would take ground teams approximately 12 hours to hike up the trail, SnoHawk10 was launched with two pilots, one crew-chief, and two helicopter rescue technicians to attempt to insert ground crews to a higher elevation on the mountain side.
Due to weather conditions causing low visibility, the flight mission was cancelled and the helicopter returned to Taylor’s Landing.
Teams checked the forecast again and were on standby while they waited for the weather to clear. The helicopter launched again Sunday afternoon at 4:30 pm and was able to insert the Helicopter Rescue Team at 4,900 feet elevation.
SnoHawk10 then flew to the Verlot landing zone and picked up members of the Everett Mountain Rescue Unit (EMRU).
They attempted to fly them to the same insertion point, however due to worsening weather conditions, the ERMU members were inserted lower on the mountain at approximately 3,500 feet elevation.
The ground teams hiked for several hours into the night through hazardous conditions and heavy snowfall to locate the two hikers. They then safely assisted the hikers, navigating the hazardous conditions and getting off the mountain finally at about 7:00 am Monday morning.
Assistance was provided by Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue, Everett Mountain Rescue Unit, Helicopter Rescue Team, Operation Support Unit, SCVSAR 4x4 Team, Seattle Mountain Rescue and Olympic Mountain Rescue.
The road conditions in this area are deteriorating and it is currently only accessible by 4x4.
The Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit recommends people wait until next year to complete this hike and check weather conditions before leaving.
In the event of an injury or emergency on the mountain, it is estimated to take rescue crews at least a day to be able to access the location due to the current conditions.