UPDATE | January 30, 2o14
A memorial service is planned for Diane Larson on Saturday, February 1st at 11AM at Eastridge Church in Issaquah. To read more about Diane’s life and the tragedy see: Diane Larson, A Life of Purpose Lost too Soon.
King County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant, Cindi West, summed it up in a nutshell when she said, “the mountains are very treacherous now.” King County Search and Rescue Deputies say the mountains are NOT snow, but rather ICE right now. High freezing levels, sunny days and cold nights have turned the snowpack into crusty ice.
West said, “Even if you are prepared and experienced, it is not a good time to be going into the back country skiing or hiking.”
Busy Weekend for Area Search and Rescue Team, Diane Larson perishes
A back country skier was rescued in the Snow Lake area of Snoqualmie Pass on Saturday afternoon, January 25, 2014, after falling an estimated 400 feet. He sustained numerous injuries and a helmet is credited for saving his life.
Also on Saturday, a 36-year old Snoqualmie woman fell while hiking/climbing Vesper Peak, 20 miles east of Granite Falls in Snohomish County, and later died from her injuries.
The victim, Diane Larson, was an ordained minister who worked in Snoqualmie at Northwest Ministry Network. News of her death traveled via social media, shocking friends and co-workers.
Larson’s close friend, Deborah Davis, said they’re still trying to piece together what happened, but that it was icy and Diane may have slipped and then fell 150 feet while descending from the hike/climb.
Diane was climbing/hiking with members from the group ClimberwithaPurpose.org and had hoped to climb Mt. Rainer with the group later this year, helping raise money to build children’s hostel in Burma. One hiking group member said Diane simply turned her head to hear what someone had said when her foot slipped. She sustained a head injury during the tragic accident.
Deborah Davis said her friend touched many lives all around the world, describing her as a “wonderful person and a friend to anyone she met.”
On Sunday, January 26th, at 5:30PM, crews headed back to Snoqualmie Pass, responding to the Alpental area near Chair Peak for a 45-year old man who fell and broke his leg, possibly broke his collarbone and sustained a head injury. It is unknown at this time if the man was hiking or back country skiing. The group he was with called 911.
King County Sheriff’s Office helicopters were not available to assist and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office was fogged in – as were the Whidbey Island Naval Station and the Port Angeles Coast Guard Station.
The closest available helicopter flew in from the Astoria, OR Coast Guard Station and performed the rescue airlift, after search crews waited with the injured man until 3AM. Due to heavy fog, the helicopter could not land at Harborview Medical Center and was diverted to Boeing Field where an ambulance was waiting.
Sergeant West warned that if the fog continues and they have to perform another rescue, KCSO may not be able to get a helicopter, meaning it can take hours for search and rescue crews to safely hike in just to reach a victim. Bringing a victim down can take even longer.
These warnings pertain to the back country and out-of-bounds mountain areas – not to area ski resorts.