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[pct-l] Sarah Bishop's Unfortunate Death

I have been in communication with Clackamas County SAR regarding the death of Sarah Bishop at the PCT's Sandy River crossing near Mt. Hood.  First, this a confusing area of trail junctions.  I took the wrong trail just after crossing the Sandy River at this point last year.  There is no bridge on the PCT across the Sandy River where Rushing Water Creek joins the Sandy.  Last year in September you could cross on three logs about 50 yards upstream from the trail crossing, but you could also just walk across at the trail crossing with nothing worse than wet feet. 

Regarding Sarah, the following facts were not mentioned in the media reports:

1.  Sarah's pack weighed about 60 pounds bone dry.
2.  The pack was so securely strapped on that the SAR folks had to cut if off in order to recover her body.
3. Sarah was using trekking poles.

The lessons I learned from this incident are:
1.      Pack weight is usually treated as a mere matter of personal preference, but it appears to have been a matter of safety here.  I am guessing that Sarah's pack equalled about half her body weight.  
2.      Always undo your hip belt and sternum strap when crossing deep water.  Better to lose your pack than your life.  Sarah was about two miles from her car.  She could have easily ditched the pack and had a much better chance to walk out safely. So sad.
3.      Wait for help.  I hesitate to criticize going solo, because I do it myself.  However, given the kind of weather conditions Sarah was dealing with (the city of Gresham to the west of Mt. Hood received an inch of rain in 20 minutes at one point), it was time to either bail out, hook up with another hiker or hunker down. She was at the very lowest elevation point in her hike. She had to either cross a stream or return to higher elevation and exit out Paradise Park trail or some other trail that didn't cross a large creek or river. Maybe she felt she was too cold and wet to go higher up, but the other options might have worked.  I crossed the Sandy at Rushing Water Creek twice last summer and there were other hikers there both times.  There are places to camp nearby if no one else comes along and I would guess the temps would have been in the mid 50's.

My heart goes out to Sarah's family and to the SAR people, one of whom told me this was a "very sad incident, one that I do not want to have to repeat anytime soon."

Wayne Kraft