Stranded Tigard man rescued from Steens Mountain
Brandon Seaver and three others survive four days of blizzard conditions.
Brandon Seavers Facebook page says it all.
I have been rescued!!!! the 36-year-old Tigard man wrote on Tuesday.
Seaver is lucky to be alive after he and three co-workers spent four days stranded on a mountain in Southeastern Oregon.
The four men were pulled off Steens Mountain on Tuesday after their snowcat got stuck in a blizzard at about 97,000 feet elevation, near the mountains summit.
Seaver, a construction worker with Legacy Wireless Services in Clackamas, travels all across the state installing cellphone towers. He and the crew spent 24 weeks near the summit of Steens Mountain, near the Idaho and Nevada borders.
It was a bright, sunny Saturday, and the crew had just finished its work when trouble hit.
We were packing up our stuff, Seaver recalled. It was beautiful in the morning. It was sunny and really nice. But toward the afternoon, it started to sock in with a really good (weather) system. We know how it gets up there, so we were pressing to get everyone into the snowcat and go.
Its not uncommon for Steens Mountain to see severe winter storms, with winds of more than 100 miles per hour, Seaver said.
The storm quickly became a blizzard as the four attempted to drive down the mountain. But with no visability, the snowcat soon became stuck in a massive snowdrift.
We couldnt see our tracks anymore, it was snowing so hard, Seaver said.
They were only about 600 yards from the building they were working in.
We couldnt go forward or reverse, Seaver said. We knew at that point, OK, were screwed.
Facing white-out conditions, the men called 911.
Thank God for 3G, Seaver said.
Harney County Search and Rescue told the four men which included Seaver, Jeff Brown of Portland, and Jeffery and Ray Syversen of Tillamook to hunker down for the night in the snowcat.
With about 3/4 of a tank of fuel in the snowcat, the men stayed put.
We were there for 20 hours, Seaver said.
Seaver, cold and wearing a large hooded snowjacket, posted a photo to his Facebook page, letting friends and family know he was OK and help was on the way.
Wish I was home, he wrote.
The next morning, the four men awoke to still white-out conditions, no rescue in sight, and their food dwindling.
It snowed 4 feet that night, he said. Some of the snow drifts were 20 feet tall.
Rescue crews from Harney County Search and Rescue and the Harney County Snowmobile Club tried for hours to reach the summit Sunday, but 70-mile-per-hour winds, blowing snow and heavy fog prevented the rescuers from reaching the stranded men, said Harney County Sheriff David Glerup.
With the snowcat running low on fuel, Seaver and his colleagues decided to hike up the mountain on foot to a concrete radio building that stored electrical equipment, Seaver said.
Seaver and the rest of the men are trained climbers. The crew marched through the deep snow in the direction of the shelter as wind and snow howled past them.
We had a 90-mile-per-hour wind at our back, Seaver said. We couldnt see anything. We had to stay within a shirt-tail of each other.
After several minutes, they made it inside, where Seaver said he felt safer.
The building had a generator and heat. The men were able to charge their cellphones and communicate with family and friends, as well as the rescuers, Seaver said.
The men had only a few snack foods with them when they went into the snowcat to head home the day before, Seaver said.
We usually take a lot more food up there. Im surprised we didnt have more. It was just a bad day, he said.
By late Sunday, they were out of food, but Seaver said no one panicked.
We didnt have to ration water or anything. We all knew not to go drinking the whole jug, he said. And we all stayed in good health.
As the weather slogged on, the search and rescue crews were forced to turn back again and again on Sunday and into Monday, Glerup said. A search helicopter from the Oregon Air National Guard base in Salem was unable to make it because of the severe weather conditions.
During one rescue attempt on Sunday, searchers were less than a mile from the workers before they were forced to turn back.
Members of the Harney County Snowmobile Club were able to reach the summit at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and transport the men back down the mountain to the small town of Frenchglen, about 60 miles south of Burns, where the search and rescue crews were stationed.
In Burns, Seaver was reunited with his mother and fiancÃ©.
Seaver said, most of all, he wants to thank the men and women who put their lives at risk to save him.
The rescue team was awesome, Seaver said. We really appreciate them coming up and putting their lives in danger. That weather was extreme.
Seaver said he wont be returning to Steens Mountain anytime soon. The snowcat was left on the mountain. Glerup said it likely wouldnt be recovered until July.