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Injured Maine Climber Rescued from Rocky Terrain

TOWNSHIP 6 NORTH OF WELD -- Rescuers carried an injured rock climber down a rugged trail on Tumbledown Mountain in Franklin County late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Maris Toland, 28, of Portland suffered a compound fracture to a leg when she fell while rock climbing Tuesday, Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said late Wednesday morning in a news release.

"In an exhaustive effort in very difficult terrain, Toland was carried down the mountain throughout the night and flown by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center in Portland this morning," MacDonald said.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, game wardens responded to Tumbledown to rescue a woman with a broken leg.

They were assisted by Mahoosuc Mountain Rescue and fire departments from Mexico, Roxbury, Weld, Rumford, Peru and Dixfield, as well as personnel from Mt. Blue State Park and Med-Care Ambulance of Mexico.

"Thirty-one volunteers also helped with this rescue effort," MacDonald said.

According to radio traffic late Tuesday night between law enforcement dispatchers and rescue personnel, Toland was four miles up the Loop Trail, which was formerly known as the Chimney Trail. It is the most difficult of the four trails up Tumbledown.

The rescue staging area was on No. 6 Road between Weld and Coos Canyon in Byron.

Rumford fire Chief Bob Chase said Toland's boyfriend descended the Loop Trail and drove to Byron to call for help, because there is no cellphone service on the mountain.

Chase said Wednesday morning that the initial call for help came in as a rescue call at Coos Canyon in Byron. So the Mexico Fire Department, which handles Byron calls, went up first.

Six Rumford firefighters, including Chase, also responded, and then Weld firefighters were called in when rescuers realized the operation was in Franklin County. Later in the rescue operation, calls for manpower went out to Roxbury, Dixfield and Andover fire departments, netting four firefighters.

Chase said when they reached the trailhead, they realized they couldn't use rescue all-terrain vehicles.

"Within 25 feet of getting off the road, the trail was too narrow and rocky for ATV access," he said.

The first rescue team reached Toland at 10:38 p.m., Chase said. She was near the top of the trail, which ascends a gully that gets very steep near the upper part of the trail. It reaches what looks like an impassable stretch of huge boulders, but the trail passes through a narrow crack in which hikers are helped by iron rungs anchored into the rock.

This stretch is called Fat Man's Misery. Chase said Toland and her boyfriend, who are experienced rock climbers, had gone off the trail to the left just before this section and were doing rope climbing when the accident happened.

He said he didn't know how she fell, but in addition to the compound leg fracture, she had a broken ankle. Rescuers suspected the other ankle was also broken.

They had tried to get either LifeFlight or a Maine National Guard Medevac helicopter to airlift Toland from the mountain, but neither were available.

Chase said they needed a helicopter crew trained in technical hoisting.

He spoke highly of the technical skill of Mahoosuc Mountain Rescue, a Newry search-and-rescue team that brought all its technical climbing gear.

Toland was strapped onto a backboard and placed into a Stokes basket for the descent. At times, rescuers with headlamps had to use ropes to lower her down the trail, Chase said.

He said they got her down to the road by 5:30 a.m. without any rescuers getting injured. Afterward they set up a landing zone for LifeFlight.

One technical rescuer told Chase the Loop Trail rescue was more of a technical challenge than rescuing an injured hiker from Mount Katahdin's Knife Edge Trail.

"I've done a fair number of carryouts off the Appalachian Trail in Andover and I couldn't believe how challenging and technical this was," Chase said. "This was in the most challenging terrain. But we have had others where the weather was more of a hindrance. They're never easy."

tkarkos@sunjournal.com
August 28, 2014



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