Tigard High students recount their night in Mount Hood wilderness

Photo Credit: TYLER SIMS - Cole Cameron, 17, hikes along a ridge in the Mt. Hood wilderness shortly before he and Tyler Sims, 16, were separated on a hike on Saturday. The two teens spent the night in the mountains and were rescued Sunday morning.As the sun set on Mount Hood Saturday night, Tyler Sims realized he wasn’t going to make it back home anytime soon.

Sims, 16, was on a day hike with his friend Cole Cameron, 17, outside of Rhododendron when they got separated and lost, spending the night on the mountain before being found by rescue crews on Sunday morning.

The two Tigard High School students left for Mount Hood early Saturday morning, arriving at the Top Spur trailhead at about 9 a.m.

Their plan, Cameron said, was to hike a few hours to the Snow Dragon Ice Caves on the Sandy Glacier.

They hiked for most of the day, and it was mid-afternoon when they decided to start back toward the car. They were hoping to get there by 4 or 5 p.m.

Their hike had taken them off the main trail, and tired from their day, they decided to take what they thought was a shortcut back.

Instead of a shortcut, the pair found a steep embankment.

“From our vantage point, we couldn’t see that it was a straight cliff drop,” Cameron said. “We were looking down a couple of hundred feet.”

As they were getting ready to head another direction, Sims lost his backpack over the edge, Cameron said. The bag contained their food, some safety equipment, flashlights and car keys, so Sims hiked down to retrieve it.

Cameron, who said he wasn’t as skilled at climbing rocks as Sims, opted to head another way back to the trail system.

“That was the toughest call, whether to separate or stay together,” Sims said. “But if we left the bag and we didn’t make it back by nightfall, our flashlights and everything would be gone.”

Cameron said at the time, it made sense to separate.

“People were getting mad when they heard that we split up,” Cameron said. “But at the time, it wasn’t really an option, if we stuck together and went my way, we had zero gear, and Sims is a much better climber than me.”

In the end, Sims wasn’t able to climb back up the embankment, and decided to follow a nearby river to eventually meet up with the trail. But after hours of walking, it became clear that to him that he was in trouble, Sims said.

“I had no idea where the trail was,” he said. He found a spot with cell service and called 911 for help.

Sims had left a detailed itinerary and route plan with his family, so they knew where he would be, Sims said. Search and rescue crews were able to use that information to track their position.

The Clackamas County Sheriffs’ Office searched the area Saturday night and was able to pinpoint his position using GPS.

Meanwhile, Sims made a small fire for himself while he waited for search crews to arrive, he said.

After calling for help, Sims called his mother to let her know he wouldn’t be making it back that night.

“She was kind of upset,” Sims recalled. “She asked, ‘What is wrong with you!’” Tyler Sims, 16, spent the night on Mt. Hood alone after he was separated from a hiking partner.

Sunday morning

Cameron, unaware that Sims had called for search and rescue, made his way up a tall ridge, thinking it would connect him to the trail system. It didn’t, and when he slid back down, he lost a shoe.

Eventually reaching the bottom of the ridge, he walked along the river until dark, then wrapped his wet, bare foot and caught a few hours of restless sleep.

“Once it started getting dark, I realized I was nowhere close to making it back. I was stuck in a bunch of trees. I had no (phone) service and used the last battery to find a place to sleep,” he said.

Several search and rescue organizations, including Mountain Wave 8 Communications, Clackamas County Search and Rescue, AMR Reach and Treat, Portland Mountain Rescue, Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue, North Oregon Regional Search and Rescue and Hood River Search and Rescue, participated in the search.

“People always talk about not taking things for granted, but it means something different when you realize you’re not going to make it back home,” Cameron said.

While the boys were gone, friends and family took to social media to send messages of support to their friends.

“Camping out in my backyard until they are found,” wrote one student on Twitter, adding the hashtag #becoldwithtylerandcole.”

A Hood River Search and Rescue airplane located Sims at about 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

He had suffered mild exposure from the elements, Clackamas County sheriff’s officials said.

Meanwhile, when the sun rose on Sunday, Cameron found a small path and was able to make his way back to the main trail system.

Cameron was found walking along the trail by search dogs at about 9 a.m.

'It was our mistake'

The boys said they learned a valuable lesson about backpacking.

“Don’t be overly confident,” Cameron said. “I was sure I’d be able to find the path on my own, but once I got out there, I realized that I didn’t know Mount Hood like I should and had no idea what I was doing and should have stayed and waited for Sims to get his backpack and call for help for both of us.”

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office released a statement after the boys were found, warning hikers to always carry sufficient food, water and clothing when going for an extended hike.

“It's always good to have a fully charged cellphone, and if available, carry a second battery as some cellphone apps and GPS functions can rapidly drain a cellphone battery,” sheriff’s officials said. “Always let someone know where you are hiking and what time you plan to be back.”

Sims said the most important lesson he learned from the experience was the importance of planning ahead.

“Stay on the trail if don’t know the area that well,” he said. “Even if you are fatigued, don’t take shortcuts. It was our mistake to go a different way than the way that we came."

Sims and Cameron said they have no plans to return to the mountain anytime soon.

“I’m sure my parents don’t want me going near Mount Hood for a while,” Cameron said.

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