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Three Fingers Mountain Rescue

November 10, 2023

Press release from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office:

On June 17 around 9:30 p.m., our on-call Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator was paged for a mission in the area of Three Fingers. It was reported that three distressed hikers were stuck in thick fog and rain, about two miles from the lookout. There was a significant amount of snow on the ground, and the hikers were not equipped for overnight sheltering.

Cell service was sporadic but available enough for our SAR coordinator to call and talk to the reporting party. The three hikers were siblings in their 20’s who traveled here from out of state. They were wet and very cold. They described almost sliding down a heavily snowed area with a steep slope and stated they could not make it back due to the conditions. They had sleeping bags with them, but no shelter to protect them.

Due to the damaged bridge and washout on FS-41, SAR ground teams had to use E-bikes and quads through the first 8 miles just to reach the trailhead. The ground teams then had to hike up 7 miles to reach the three siblings who needed help. It took the first hasty team about 9 hours to reach them. Subsequent teams were shuttled in on quads and then hiked in with more gear and dry clothes to warm up the hikers, who were exhibiting signs of hypothermia. Our Helicopter Rescue Team made multiple attempts to get to the area, but the weather conditions prevented them from flying in.

After more than a day of rescue efforts by multiple SAR teams, the three hikers were helped down the mountain by ground teams and then brought back over the bridge via quads.

In all, the operation took about 32 hours. The initial two hasty teams were on the trail for over 27 hours each. Many other ground teams spent various hours on the trail as well. Over 500 SAR personnel hours were spent on this mission, a majority being expert volunteers from around the region.

A huge thank you to Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, Everett Mountain Rescue, Olympic Mountain Rescue, King County Volunteer Search and Rescue, Skagit County Volunteer Search and Rescue, Arlington Police Department and our own Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deputies. In all, seven quads, three E-bikes, the OSU Command vehicle and SnoHawk10 helicopter were utilized.

This was incredible work by all the Search and Rescue teams who ultimately saved the lives of these three siblings! This was a very difficult and stressful mission that SAR performed flawlessly.

Before you leave to go hiking:

– Always check trail reports and weather conditions.

– Have a plan and share it with someone who is not hiking with.

– Always be well prepared: shelter, extra clothing, food and water for multiple days.

– Pack the 10 essentials.

– Be honest with yourself: are you fit enough, skilled enough, and properly equipped?

– Rescue missions can take days to reach you: are you prepared?