Woman who survived 300-foot fall in Skamania County thankful for the ‘heroes’ who saved her, plans return to hiking


Rebecca Halley doesn’t like being the center of attention – and vocally says so.

“The heroes of this story are the rescuers,” she said. “I was just out hiking.”

She might not be one of the heroes, but she is the central character.

The 63-year-old, who works part-time for a Beaverton pest-control company and lives in Hillsboro, was coming down a steep trail after reaching the top of Dog Mountain in Washington’s Skamania County when she tripped last Friday, May 10.

Then she wasn’t out hiking anymore – she was falling, 300 feet down the face of the mountain.

“Before I know it, I’m going over the side,” Halley recalled. “The whole way down, I’m literally praying ‘God, you have to stop me.’”

She ended up in a thicket of bushes with five broken ribs and a concussion. She was alive, but she was disoriented, injured and had no way to get back up to the trail.

Halley said that Julie Cox, one of the friends she was hiking with, called 911 after she fell.

Halley is an avid hiker, and this was her second time trekking up to the nearly 3,000-feet-high peak of Dog Mountain. While she said her husband is “not much of a hiker,” she often goes hiking with friends or one of her three adult daughters.

On this second trip up Dog Mountain, she was enjoying herself immensely, hiking with three friends, taking in “all the beautiful flowers,” Halley said. “It was just gorgeous.”

Then her foot clonked against a rock, and she was falling.

As it turned out, an emergency-room doctor was also out for a hike that day and saw it happen. The doctor climbed to where she was tangled in a bush thicket, checked her injuries and tried to make her comfortable.

Because of Halley’s head injury, it was vitally important for her to stay awake, so the doctor – Halley never got her name – kept her awake by telling her stories for hours as they waited for help.

When a search-and-rescue team led by the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office finally arrived at the scene, they found themselves in a bind.

Due to the remote location, the rescuers needed a helicopter with special hoisting capabilities to lift Halley up into the aircraft and take her to a hospital, but Washington state’s Emergency Management Division didn’t have one available, said Skamania County Sheriff Summer Scheyer.

The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center eventually found a suitable helicopter with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at the Yakima Army Training Center, said Paul Noel, spokesperson for the training center.

Halley said she remembers a medic strapping her into a winch harness as the army helicopter hovered overhead.

Since she never likes “a lot of fuss” made about her, Halley said it was “really hard to accept that all these people were … all collaborating for me.”

Up she went into the helicopter, which took her to a hospital. After two days of inpatient care, she said she was discharged on Sunday.

A week later, Halley says she remains thankful for the ER doctor who happened to be out hiking that day, and for the rescuers who brought her off the mountain.

She says she is now recovering well.

“Everybody said, ‘Ooh, (broken) ribs are so hard and they hurt so bad,’” she said. “Right now they’re not giving me too many problems.”

She said the injuries have forced her to reconsider her plan to hike South Sister in Central Oregon later this year. She’s considering walking the Camino trail in Portugal instead.

“I just thought that would be the next best thing,” she said.

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