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Scouts' Survival Skills Put to Test Amid Rockslides, Cliff

August 09, 1998|From Associated Press

MINNETONKA, Minn. — Fifteen Boy Scouts from this Minneapolis suburb got more adventure than they expected on their summer camping expedition.

Bound for Washington state's Cascade Mountains, the private helicopter they hired dropped them off 4,000 feet higher than planned, leaving them stranded amid glaciers and snowfields. Rockslides and a sheer mountain face blocked their way.

It took a harrowing day for a few to climb to safety and bring back help.

"We were expecting high adventure," said Scoutmaster Brad Strot. "But not to the point where we had to bushwhack our way down the mountain and put our kids in that much danger."

The pilot said the original landing spot on a private mining claim in the North Cascades National Park was unsafe, so he dropped them off higher up the mountains.

"There were glaciers above us, snowfields all around, clean running water that didn't need to be filtered and wildflowers," Strot said.

But the trail that should have led them down to their planned campsite was blocked by rockslides, waterfalls and a sheer rock face.

"Our first impression was of being in paradise, only to find you couldn't get out," recalled Gary Johnson, father of 17-year-old Scout Jordan Johnson and an adult leader in the troop. "Heaven turned into hell."

After two days, the group realized their situation. Seven older Scouts and two leaders set off to get help that put their Scout survival skills to the test.

"Everybody thought they were going to die," Jordan Johnson said. "Crossing that rock face, anybody could have slipped."

After a hike of more than 15 miles, the rescue team reached a camp with a bus that drove them into Stehekin, Wash. There, they called the pilot, who drove through the night to get back to his chopper.

Finally, the Scouts were airlifted out, three at a time, from the mountain. They arrived home via train last week.

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