For the second time in three weeks, the Hood River County Sheriff's Office rescued hikers who became lost in the Starvation Creek drainage.
Jesse Sweet, 28, and Sriharsha Vemana, 29, both of Portland, were found uninjured about noon March 3 after they were forced to spent a cold night in the forest. They had called 9-1-1 for help about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday after being unable to climb out of a steep ravine about two miles from the trailhead.
Sheriff Joe Wampler sent out two planes and a team of Crag Rats, the local search group, to scout for the two men at first light. He said the lost hikers had just managed to report the overhead flight of a plane to pinpoint their whereabouts when their cell phone died from a low battery. Using mountaineering gear, the Crag Rats were able to traverse the steep rock walls and hoist the cold and dehydrated subjects to safety.
Wampler said the two men made many of the same classic mistakes as the Feb. 17 case involving Pippa Brode, 22, of Portland. Like Brode, the Portland duo headed out on the 14-mile round-trip journey from the trailhead, about 10 miles west of Hood River, to Mt. Defiance -- but didn't stay the course on the return trip.
All three hikers headed into the Starvation Creek drainage and lost valuable daylight time battling the brush and rugged terrain, according to Wampler.
One key difference, said Wampler, was that Brode, accompanied by her Golden Labrador Retriever, had prepared only for a day trip but Sweet and Vemana were dressed warmly and had a small store of food and water to get them through the night.
However, he said none of the involved parties were carrying fire starting supplies, which would have aided greatly in their comfort and rescue visibility. He said all three parties did have a communication device and were able to call for help, which did save hours of valuable search time.
Wampler said both recent rescues underscore the need for hikers to stay on the trail and, if there was snow blanketing the ground, retrace their exact footsteps back down the mountain. He said the Gorge terrain can be very inhospitable and outdoor enthusiasts should never attempt to follow a drainage downhill because, as in the cases of Brode, Sweet and Vemana, it might be laced with toppled trees, waterfalls and other natural barriers.