Interview: Mount Osborn Rescue

Published on May 4, 2013 by in Interviews

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I was finishing up a swim at the pool in Nome the other day when an old friend from Kotzebue mentioned a rescue for a couple of climbers in the mountains to the north of Nome.

As a climber I’ve been eye-balling these peaks for years, and I’ve always come to the same conclusion: the rock was crap and not worth the time. I did hear about another local climber, Ian McRae, who possessed a greater sense of adventure then I did. I’d hear stories of his trips into the Kigluaik Range and wonder what in hell he was finding to climb. It turns out one route he’d had his eye on was a tight couloir (a narrow, steep gully) on the northeast side of Mount Osborn.

Mount Osborn

Mount Osborn from the Northeast. Sluicebox Couloir is just left of center in the shade.

On Saturday April 20th, Ian and his climbing partner Andy Stearns were about half way up this feature when they were hit by rockfall, or an avalanche, or both. This resulted in Andy breaking both legs and a massive effort on Ian’s part to get him down to more hospitable terrain. From there he activated his Spot Tracker.

Shortly thereafter, the Nome Volunteer Fire Department responded in what appears to be a text book rescue involving snow machines, a private Maule M-4-210C, and Bering Air’s R44 Raven II helicopter. It’s also an excellent example of how important pilots and planes are to rural Alaska. We do more than deliver soda pop and chips!

Nome Sectional Excerpt

Excerpt of the Nome Sectional chart, with Mount Osborn (29 NM north of Nome) circled in red.

Kudos to all involved in the rescue, and thanks to all the Nome volunteers.

Last week I sat down with Jim West Jr. and Larry Eggart from Nome Search and Rescue to talk about the event. Jim was born and raised in Nome, and has been part of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department since 1983. He’s now the Search and Rescue Coordinator. Larry came up to Alaska 33 years ago, and flies for Bering Air. He also owns a Maule on skis.

In the interview, Jim and Larry walk through the response. They also talk a bit about search and rescue operations out of Nome in general, and the important role private aircraft can play.


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More Information

You can read about the climb and the accident on Ian’s blog.

The full story is in a great article on the front page of the April 25th issue of The Nome Nugget newspaper.

Nome Volunteer Fire Department

Bering Air R44 Raven II helicopter

Flight Simulation

Mike says: “If you want to see for yourself where the rescue took place, you can fly from Nome (PAOM) or Nome City Field (94Z) to Mount Osborn in Microsoft Flight Simulator X. FSX includes a Maule Orion M-7-260-C Super Rocket on skis and a Robinson R-22 Beta II. While not an exact match of aircraft, if you set the season to Winter you can certainly get some sense of what the rescue was like from a pilot’s perspective.”

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2 Responses to “Interview: Mount Osborn Rescue”

  1. Matt says:

    Good work guys.

    How much of a role does Civil Air Patrol play in search and rescue up there? I’m sure it all depends on squadron location and capability. I’ve read old stories of pilots being picked up by CAP Beavers. I did see one of their GA-8s in Kalskag last year, but not on a search and rescue mission.

    • Aidan says:

      I don’t think there is any CAP in rural Ak. I know they’re in Anchorage and probably Fairbanks and Juneau. It’ s another interview I need to get. I’ll let you know when we get it.

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