National Search and Rescue Week: A Tribute to Unsung Heroes

The United States Senate recently unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, designating May 16 through May 22 as National Search and Rescue Week.

This bipartisan effort, co-sponsored by Senators Patty Murray, Mike Crapo, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Mike Enzi, Lisa Murkowski, and Ron Wyden, seeks to honor the courage, commitment, and compassion of search and rescue (SAR) personnel across the nation.

Senator Cantwell, an avid hiker, and mountaineer herself, emphasized the critical role that these skilled volunteers play in averting potential tragedies outdoors, acknowledging that even the best preparation cannot safeguard against every mishap.

During National Search and Rescue Week, observed annually from May 16 to May 22, we honor the valor and dedication of teams like Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR), who exemplify the spirit of this important week through their numerous challenging and life-saving operations.

National Search and Rescue Week is a crucial time to recognize and appreciate the indispensable efforts of SAR professionals and volunteers nationwide. It also serves as a platform to spotlight local heroes who, through their selfless actions, make a tangible difference in their communities.

The National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) and the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) play a pivotal role in bolstering the capabilities of SAR teams. Through their advocacy for education, certification, and volunteer protection, the MRA ensures that teams like Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR) are well-equipped and prepared to face any emergency, truly embodying the spirit of National Search and Rescue Week.

As we observe National Search and Rescue Week, let’s explore some of the most significant rescues undertaken by North Bend’s Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR) in the past year. These missions highlight their remarkable skills, bravery, and steadfast commitment to their core mission of ensuring safety and embodying their guiding principle, “Everybody Comes Home From The Backcountry.”

Lost 10-Year-Old Girl in Kittitas County

On a Sunday evening following the grand opening weekend of the new Mountain Rescue Center in North Bend, Doug McCall, President of Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR), received a critical alert. He had just decided to relax with a margarita when his phone displayed a message: “SMR Call Out: All Ols call SAR Deputy to assist Kittitas County in searching for a ten y/o girl.”

Compelled by SMR’s Vision Statement,Doug knew he couldn’t sit idly by while a young girl was lost in the backcountry. His decision was immediate—to respond and mobilize his team.

The SMR team worked through the night in the rugged terrain of Kittitas County. Their dedication and training were pivotal in locating the young girl safely the following day, ensuring her safe return to her family.

Three Fingers Rescue: Stranded Hikers

In another harrowing rescue, SMR responded to an emergency at the Three Fingers lookout where three hikers had become stranded on a snowy cliff. Originally planning to spend the night at the lookout, their situation took a dangerous turn when one hiker slipped and inadvertently dragged another towards the precipice, leaving them all in a perilous position. The inclement weather conditions prevented helicopter support.

SMR’s ground teams, working in perfect coordination and utilizing their individual strengths, reached the hikers on foot. They equipped them with dry clothes, food, and hot tea to stave off hypothermia, and set up fixed ropes to aid their descent. This operation, a testament to the team’s unity and resilience, demonstrated SMR’s ability to adapt and effectively conduct a rescue under severe weather constraints.

The Tooth: Multiple Missions, Various Challenges

SMR faced multiple challenges at The Tooth, a popular climbing destination. Over the summer, they responded to three separate incidents:

1. A hiker slipped on residual snow after completing the climb, resulting in injuries.

2. Another climber fell during the first pitch and sustained injuries.

3. A tragic incident where a solo climber fell, resulting in a fatality.

For each of these missions, SMR drone pilots played a crucial role. They located the climbers and provided vital information to the Base Operations Leaders, enhancing the overall safety and efficiency of the rescues.

Introducing drone technology has significantly boosted SMR’s capabilities, offering invaluable aerial perspectives during complex rescues.

Lundin Peak: Climbers in Crisis

At Lundin Peak, three climbers found themselves in a critical situation after they were stranded on a cliff. Attempting to ascend the peak, they encountered difficulties that neither allowed them to progress upward nor retreat downward. Overnight, the weather deteriorated, bringing rain, snow, and poor visibility.

SMR teams reached the climbers and provided a temporary shelter where they could change into dry clothes and warm up. Once stabilized, the climbers were safely lowered to the ground and escorted back to the trailhead.

Training and Preparation: The Backbone of Successful Rescues

Each of these rescues demonstrates the bravery and skill of the SMR volunteers and the importance of rigorous, continuous training. Between June and September 2023, SMR logged over 800 hours of training (a total of 3,339 training hrs. in 2023), focusing on technical backcountry rescues.

This preparation is vital, ensuring that SMR responders are ready to handle any challenges they might face when the call comes.

Grand Opening & 75 Anniversary in June 2023

Supporting Our Heroes

The efforts of Seattle Mountain Rescue and similar organizations across King County are crucial to ensuring the safety of those who venture into challenging terrains. During National Search and Rescue Week, we honor these brave men and women by learning about and reflecting on their selfless acts.

Consider donating to SMR or other local SAR teams to support these vital operations.

~To donate to teams without websites or donate links, here is a link to a 501c3 non-profit that helps raise funds for these teams: King County Search and Rescue Association – Everyday Giving Page (

In Washington state, which is home to three of the United States’ 58 national parks, search and rescue operations are especially crucial given the high volume of outdoor activity.

Supporting these heroes is essential, and local businesses like Arete Coffee, Volition Brewery, and Old Stove Brewery are stepping up by offering special promotions to aid Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR).

These initiatives, ranging from custom drinks and merchandise to fundraising events, highlight the community’s involvement in bolstering the vital work of SAR teams.

By supporting these brave men and women, we contribute to their readiness and ability to respond to emergencies. Your support helps equip them with the necessary resources to carry on their lifesaving missions, ensuring that every call for help can be answered.

These dedicated responders make it possible for everyone to have a chance to come home from the backcountry, reflecting the true spirit of community and resilience.

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