Crews from Grant County Fire District 3 played an important role in rescuing an injured rock climber from Frenchman Coulee on the southwestern corner of Grant County Nov. 20.
According to GCFD 3 Chief Tony Leibelt, crews from his department examined the severity of the accident, the unfriendly weather conditions and the remoteness of the location and called for help from firefighters from Moses Lake (MLFD and Grant County 5) and Royal Slope Fire & Rescue.
“We mobilized (the crews) came up with a rescue plan, executed the plan and had the patient out within three hours,” said Leibelt, who said that an ambulance then took the injured patient, a male in his 20s, to Confluence Health in Wenatchee.
“We weren’t exactly sure what caused him to fall, but he had serious injuries,” Leibelt said. “We could not fly him out because helicopters weren’t available because of the weather.” The accident occurred at mid-morning during a very cloudy day.
Leibelt continued, “Tried to get a fixed-wing airplane into Quincy’s airport and that could not land, either, so we were pretty much dedicated to a ground-transport rescue.”
Emergency crews first arrived by foot to make contact with the patient, then lowered rescue equimpent from the top of the cliff to the valley floor.
“Took a little work, took some effort,” Leibelt said, adding that accidents at Frenchman Coulee happen “four to six times a year,” with not only climbers getting hurt but also hikers, although most of the time it’s climbing incidents.
In 2002 Swedish climber Goran Kropp, who became a star in the climbing world when he biked from his home country to Mount Everest, climbed it, and then biked back, died when he fell while climbing at Frenchman Coulee.
This time around, the injured patient remained conscious and had injuries that Leibelt referred to as “multi-system trauma injuries.
“We wish the patient the best and we are confident he will recover,” he said. “He’s young.”
Leibelt recommended that folks who want to climb Frenchman train themselves well on what they are about to do, as well as how to use the equipment before they attempt to leave flat ground and climb.
Leibelt praised the inter-agency teamwork that made the rescue possible.
“We all work together, we are used to each other, and it pays off,” he said.