Hikers: Safety warning on Mt. Pilchuck after four rescues in seven days

The trail above the snow line from June 12. (Photo courtesy Erin Melton via the Washington Trails Association)

If you are looking for a day trip away from southern Snohomish County, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office warns that Mt. Pilchuck’s conditions are difficult.

The warning comes after four rescues in seven days. Two of those rescued had serious injuries.

The Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit are warning the public that conditions on Mt. Pilchuck right now are not conducive to an easy day hike or to those who aren’t well-trained and well-equipped.

“A late spring melt-out and heavy winter snow pack on the mountain has made the trail up Mt. Pilchuck slippery and very hard to navigate,” said SAR Sgt. Danny Wikstrom. “All of our recent rescue missions to Mt. Pilchuck have been above the snowline and three of them involved persons not dressed or equipped for the conditions on the mountain.”

Mt. Pilchuck is about a two-hour drive away from southern Snohomish County.

Sgt. Wikstrom offered these tips and reminders:

  • Carry the 10 essentials, including a map and compass.
  • Stay on the trail. If you’re unsure where the trail is, turn around.
  • Only hikers who have the training and equipment to traverse snow fields, who have extensive knowledge of the Mt. Pilchuck trail, and who are prepared for changing conditions — and to spend the night – should even consider attempting the trail.
  • Do not rely on using your cellphone as your only emergency plan. Very little of the mountain (or anywhere in the area) has cellphone coverage.  Leave a hiking plan behind with someone who can call 911 if you don’t return on time.

Summary of Recent Mt. Pilchuck Missions

June 8, 2017 — SAR personnel and volunteers rescued an adult female from the west side of Mt. Pilchuck. The woman slipped on snow at approximately 4,800 feet and sustained a leg injury. The hiker, who was well-equipped, sustained injuries after attempting an ice axe self-arrest.  She was transported by helicopter to the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue facility around 3 p.m. and then transported by private vehicle for medical treatment.

June 11, 2017 — SAR received a report around 5 p.m. that a 19 year-old male broke through the snow, fell and dislocated his shoulder.  The male was unable to move and he was transported by helicopter to the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue facility around 9 p.m. and then transported by private vehicle for medical treatment.

June 11, 2017 — While responding to the injured 19 year-old male, SAR received a call that there was a 27 year-old male who had become lost.  Rescue crews searched the area by air and ground, but were unable to locate the missing man.  Several hours later, the man made it back to the trailhead on his own. He was cold and wet, but uninjured.

June 12, 2017 — A 20 year-old woman became separated from her hiking partner and called 911 around 6 p.m.  She was about 400 yards off-trail on a dangerous snow slope.  Due to conditions and nightfall, SAR personnel and volunteers deployed ground rescue teams.  She was safely escorted back to the trailhead just before midnight.  She was treated for mild hypothermia. She was extremely fortunate to have cellphone coverage in that area.

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