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Jul-31-2007 15:43printcomments

Hikers Found After Being Stranded Near Multnomah Falls

The pair attempted to find an alternate route down with out success leaving them trapped for the night.

hikers found photo
Photo courtesy: MCSO

(MULTNOMAH FALLS, Ore.) - 24-year-old Mike Leveton, of Vancouver, WA and 23-year-old Aurora Paulson also of Vancouver, WA set out at about noon on Sunday planning to hike up Moffett Creek to view Wahe Falls and another water fall farther up the creek.

Although Moffett Creek has no maintained trail it is still popular with experienced Gorge hikers and Leveton/Paulson found out about it from friend and coworker who had hiked the area before.

At Wahe Falls the pair had to climb up a 75 foot section to continue to the upper falls.

Once on top they realized they would not be able to descend safely.

Leveton/Paulson attempted to find an alternate route down with out success leaving them trapped for the night.

They had adequate clothing for the time of year, sunflower seeds to eat a water source.

They also carried a flashlight and a cell phone, but the cell phone battery went dead.

They camped by Moffett Creek for the night planning to resume a search for a way down the following morning.

Leveton/Paulson's friend was informed they did not show up for work on Monday morning and knew that it was unlike either of them to be late let alone both at the same time.

Knowing they had gone hiking on Sunday he feared the worst and began checking for them by calling, going to their residences and finally going to the Wahclella Falls Trail Head where they would have parked.

At the trail head he found Paulson's car, but no sign of the hikers. The friend notified 911 at about 9:00 PM and two MCSO deputies responded to the scene.

Based on the information given by the friend the deputies activated the MCSO Search and Rescue Team.

The SAR Team called out approximately ten members and deployed a Reach and Treat Team to focus directly on searching Moffett Creek during the overnight hours.

They were assisted by the Mountain Way Search and Rescue in communications.

At about 4:00 AM the SAR Team radioed that they had received a verbal response to their whistle signals indicating they were getting very close.

They still had the 75 foot wall to scale, however, involving the laying of safety lines and use technical equipment. Not having any indication regarding the condition of Leveton/Paulson at this point and making a calculated assumption that there would be injuries, the MCSO SAR Command requested the assistance of a USCG Rescue Helicopter which would expedite any extraction process.

While continuing forward on the ground we received visual confirmation from a news helicopter that Leveton/Paulson were in a location that we had expected and appeared to be in good condition.

Once the USCG Helicopter arrived they performed an evaluation of the terrain and condition of Leveton/Paulson and determined that extraction via hoist was safe.

The USCG Helicopter was successful in extracting Leveton/Paulson.

They transported them to a pre established landing zone where they were met by MCSO SAR personnel.

In the debrief interview with Leveton/Paulson they indicated they planned to continue to find a way down today or even attempt to go over the top of the hill into the Tanner Creek canyon, but were relieved to see the helicopters and rescue on its way.

Although exhausted Leveton/Paulson were unhurt.

They drove home in Paulson's car which had been broken into sometime since Sunday.

What made this search and Rescue process successful was the fact that someone new exactly where Leveton/Paulson would be hiking.

Their good physical condition, decision not to descend the water fall, extra food/water, and appropriate clothing also contributed to their safe return.

Without the assistance of the USCG this process would have taken 6 to 10 hours longer.

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Kevin Stoltz August 1, 2007 7:03 am (Pacific time)

This story is a perfect example of why hikers should voluntarily carry PLB's (Personal Locator Beacons).

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