With a good night's sleep after my St. Helens summit the day before, I got the van ready and packed for a four-day business/camping/climbing trip. It had rained most of the night in Vancouver, WA, but I hoped that by the time I arrived at the Mt. McLoughlin trailhead, 300 miles south, the conditions would have improved enough for a summit attempt. I arrived at the trailhead just after 5 PM and the conditions looked good enough for a dash to the summit. I started at 5:12, hit the PCT junction in 14 min., and made the second junction with the climbing trail 5 min. later.
By 7:11 I was standing on top. I caught up with and summitted with a young couple from Klamath Falls named Heidi and Erik. They were on a hike with Heidi's parents and a cousin of hers. I can thank Erik for the picture of me at the summit I couldn't have managed any other way - (darned technology - it's difficult for us old guys sometimes!) The big adventure was to happen on the trip down.
About half way back I met George and Brad and Brad's friend Sheila (from Newfoundland!) George had seriously bit off too much (he's about 70 and not in too good a shape) Anyway; he was practically stumbling down the mountain being steadied by Brad and Sheila. (Darned senior incidents! We may all get there someday.) They asked for my help, explaining that they were five hours overdue and had no lights. I took George's phone number and agreed to call his wife as well as the forest ranger to notify them of their plight.
I barely made it back before total darkness myself and made the calls on my cell phone in the car. As it turned out, the state police were already at George's house when I called and so the rescue was already initiated. I could have just left for Klamath and a nice warm motel but these guys were in trouble and I was the only one available to help them out. Oh well, I could always use a few more miles!
I lit my Coleman lantern, grabbed some matches (just in case) and with my cell phone in hand took off back up the trail. I was in contact with the search and rescue team every few minutes with updates and finally found the rescuees two and half miles back up the trail and only a quarter mile further down the trail from where I first met them. It was clear that they were not going to make it out on their own. Heidi and Erik had just gotten to where George, Brad and Sheila were and with their help we got George another half mile or so down the trail.
This slow progress was preferable to just sitting and waiting and gave us an excellent opportunity to get to know one another and forge a friendship out of adversity. Via my cell phone, the state police office in charge suggested we sit down and wait until he could verify that the search party was approaching the trailhead. We complied, and at about midnight, I lit a campfire, bid farewell to George and his party and with Eric and Heidi went out to the trailhead using our now fading lights.
We arrived at the trailhead at 1 am just as the search and rescue team from Medford was embarking with a wheeled litter for George. I bid farewell to all and went to look for a camping spot thus ending my most eventful mountain running adventure to date. (Sunday, Aug. 24th, 1997, 19.1 miles total, 4,700 vertical feet.)
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