Idaho rescuers thanked after prying climber from under boulder

"Rescuers had to cross a crumbling rock ledge that was only 10 inches in some places with packs on, in the dark, with only headlamps.”

By Rich Landers
The Spokesman-Review

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Sandpoint rock climber Ammi Midstokke, battered from head to toe after her foot was pinned by a 1.5-ton granite boulder in the mountains east of Priest Lake, was quick on Sunday to express thanks to her climbing companion and two teams of rescuers.

"Bottom line: everyone is safe, I'm pretty banged up and spending the night under a rock sucks. I'll update more as the morphine wears off!" she posted on her Facebook page.

Search-and-rescue teams extricated the 36-year-old early Saturday morning after her foot was trapped by the giant boulder while hiking out after scaling the west side of Chimney Rock, a popular climbing destination.

But she had to spend the night along the Selkirk Crest with her rescuers before a Fairchild Air Force Base crew could fly her out of the rugged terrain to medical care.

Midstokke was hiking with Jason Luthy, a wilderness medicine instructor from Sandpoint, and became stuck Friday afternoon after a large boulder below the east side of Chimney Rock shifted under her weight.

"She stepped on it to go over it, and it rolled on her," said Bob Abbott, spokesman for the all-volunteer Priest Lake Search and Rescue.

According to a report from Fairchild Air Force Base, Luthy was able to call 911 at 5:30 p.m. More than 20 rescuers from Priest Lake Search and Rescue and the Bonner County EMS Wilderness Response Team set out on foot after 8 p.m. with rope, medical gear and pry bars.

Negotiating steep, rocky terrain, the rescuers reached Midstokke at 12:49 a.m.

"This was the most technically difficult rescue we've done," said Mike Nielsen, commander of Priest Lake Search and Rescue. "Rescuers had to cross a crumbling rock ledge that was only 10 inches in some places with packs on, in the dark, with only headlamps. That's why it took so long to access her."

Once they reached her, rescuers freed Midstokke's leg in about 40 minutes using pry bars, mechanical advantage and muscle, Abbott said.

"Well past midnight, they were able to hoist the boulder and extract a very deformed, very dead looking foot," Midstokke wrote on Facebook. "There was much drama on my end as blood began to flow into the foot."

Her injuries were stabilized, but rescuers couldn't bring her out in the dark. A four-member Fairchild helicopter crew was dispatched at 7:10 a.m.

Midstokke was hoisted out in a litter dangling from a cable below the helicopter to an ambulance waiting below.

Initial X-rays showed a broken tarsal bone, she said in a Facebook post, "but a remarkably whole foot."


©2014 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

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