Hasty Team works to keep Sisters Country safe
Last updated 3/16/2022 at Noon
If you’ve fallen into the McKenzie River or went six hours on your Nordic skis and lost daylight, or you are stuck on Mt. Washington, you better hope that when you or companions call 911 they send the Camp Sherman Hasty Team. There is probably no better combination of search and rescue experience than this group of highly trained volunteers in Lynn, Jefferson, or Deschutes counties.
That’s not to take anything away from the several other teams, some of whom have an impressive array of the most sophisticated gear and knowhow in the western states. Satellites and thermal imaging are vital technologies, but they’re tools, like tracking dogs. It’s the hands that use them that make the difference. Search and rescue successes are often driven by sixth sense or gut feels.
The Hasty Team was formed in 1995 by then-active Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff and Camp Sherman resident Mark Foster, when he made his first rescue of stranded hikers on Three Fingered Jack. Back then most sheriff’s departments did not have dedicated personnel for this kind of work. Today, it is quite common, and there is rarely a month that goes by in which we do not read of somebody lost, found and rescued by such specialized teams.
South Sister, in Deschutes County, seems to be a particularly active location for search and rescue. The Hasty Team has assisted in calls to the popular climbing mountain. Typical of inter-agency support was the rescue in 2005 when an avalanche on North Sisters trapped four. That event, headed by Deschutes County SAR personnel, included the Hasty Team and two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from Salem using Sisters Eagle Airport as base. The airport is often the scene of operations for rescues requiring air support.
“There is a high degree of mutual aid in the three counties with frequent multi-agency efforts,” Foster said.
Foster is technically retired, still serving, though as a reserve deputy covering Camp Sherman, his home. He is also manager of House on Metolius, a private resort and nature reserve. His adrenaline-filled days of being on the active Hasty Team are over, and a new cadre of volunteer professionals are under the command of Sergeant David Pond, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office emergency manager.
Following the 1995 Three Fingered Jack rescue, Foster set about establishing the Hasty Team. It wasn’t enough though to give a handful of deputies or volunteers some basic training and gear. Foster wanted and attained the highest level of competence. He brought in swift-water rescue experts, ski patrol veterans from Mount Rainier, and a top wilderness guide who taught mapping and compass skills, among other trainers who helped hone the team’s native skills.
The Nugget asked about the worst times on the Hasty Team.
“Suicide recoveries,” he answered, “mainly those from the Crooked River Canyon bridge.”
Foster has seen his share of rescues, including some that could be described as curious or bizarre, like the rescue in 2020 in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area of a man who injured himself with a machete.
The Hasty Team has helped with animal rescue, too, such as the rescue of a runaway horse last year — eventually located, injured and standing in the middle of Whychus Creek. Hasty Team member Laurie Adams, experienced in horse rescue, was part of the effort.
Locating lost children is especially gratifying for the Team. In 2015 a 7-year-old boy walked away from his family’s campground at Scout Lake. He was found a short time after, at Suttle Lake sitting in a moored boat.
Adams’ husband, Kevin, told The Nugget that Foster is the best tracker in all of Central Oregon. He praised Foster’s pioneering efforts and the reputation of the Team. Over the years Hasty Team has rescued dozens of lost hikers, many from the Pacific Crest Trail.
We live next door to true wilderness areas, so designated in part because of their remoteness. The majority of rescues according to records are of persons from large cities like Portland not used to the rigors of our peaks and terrain.
The Nugget asked Foster to detail his most daring or challenging rescue. He responded in his usual unassuming way, almost shyly: “A woman fell from the top of 78-foot Koosah Falls into fast-moving and cold water.”
Foster recounted how the team had to suspend a rope across the river, with him dangling in the middle where she was trapped and pulling her to safety.
He made it all sound like just another day at the office.