An Olympia man who was injured while climbing North Early Winters Spire near Washington Pass on Saturday (Aug. 24) was rescued by members of the Okanogan County Search and Rescue Team, with assistance by Aero Methow Rescue Service and Outward Bound personnel, and transported to Seattle by helicopter for treatment, according to Sheriff Frank Rogers.
The search and rescue team responded to a report of an injured climber on North Early Winters Spire near Liberty Bell Mountain (actually in Chelan County), a popular climbing area that is typically accessed from the Blue Lake trailhead.
At about 11 a.m. John Ewen, 53, of Olympia, and his three climbing partners were nearing the summit of North Early Winters Spire when Ewen took about a 50-foot fall, according to the sheriff’s department report. Ewen suffered an injury to his ankle (possibly broken) and an injury to his thumb (broken/dislocated), and also suffered a large laceration to his forehead, according to reports.
Other climbers in the area witnessed the accident and were able to use a radio to notify rescue personnel, who happened to be working as standby for the Cutthroat Classic trail race on Cutthroat Pass, which is in the area near Washington Pass.
“Ewen’s climbing partners were well prepared and were able to treat the injuries quite well, splinting the ankle and thumb and bandaging his head,” Rogers said. “With the help of his climbing partners and a second group, Ewen was able to make his way down a couple of rappel pitches to meet our rescue team.”
The rescue team, which included Deputy Ottis Buzzard, members of the search and rescue high angle team, Outward Bound personnel and members from Aero Methow Rescue, were able to get to Ewen and his partners at about 3 p.m. and lowered Ewen down two more pitches, then helped carry him down approximately 500 feet to a suitable helicopter hoisting site, Rogers said. Aero Methow paramedic Vikki Buzzard examined Ewen’s injuries and improved the splints and bandaging.
At approximately 6:15 p.m., the King County Sheriff’s Office rescue helicopter arrived on scene. Ewen was transported to Harborview Hospital in Seattle. All rescue personnel were clear of the trailhead around 8:15 p.m., Rogers said.