Search and Rescue teams from across the region coordinated last Saturday to recover the body of a climber who fell to his death on Mt. Jefferson last week.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Atkins, on Saturday, July 25, a group of experienced mountain climbers were traversing a glacier on the east side of Mount Jefferson. One of the climbers, David Freepons, 65, from Kennewick, Washington, slipped and fell. Freepons, who had decades of experience, was unable to stop his descent. He fell several hundred feet downhill. His climbing companions found him dead.

Due to hazardous conditions, distance, and the inability to safely move Freepons to a Life Flight helicopter’s location, personnel returned to the airport.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, August 1, expert mountain climbers from several counties recovered Freepons’ body from Mt. Jefferson.

Sheriff Atkins reported that the recovery team started hiking into the remote wilderness location on Friday afternoon, hiking approximately 15 miles and climbing Mt. Jefferson until about 10 p.m. They spent the night on the mountain and began their day at 3 a.m. preparing for the arrival of a helicopter from Leading Edge Aviation to transport Freepons to Metolius Meadows in Camp Sherman where family and friends were waiting.

“My heart aches for David Freepons’ family and friends during this most difficult time,” the sheriff stated. “I can’t imagine the pain of losing a friend in such a manner and being helpless to help or recover David from such a remote and precarious location, and having to wait so long to get him off the mountain.”

Atkins said, “I want to personally thank Sergeant David Pond for his caring and tireless pursuit to gather so many experts from other counties to get the job done. When he reached out to other search and rescue coordinators in Oregon, their expertise and knowledge were able to put a recovery plan into action. I’m so thankful for our working relationship with other sheriff’s SAR teams.”

Leading Edge Aviation of Bend provided a helicopter for the effort.

Teams involved included: Corvallis Mountain Rescue Team with Benton County SAR; Eugene Mountain Rescue with Lane County SAR; Mountain Rescue Team with Deschutes County SAR; Lane County amateur radio operators; Linn County Posse members (shuttling gear for teams); and volunteers of the Jefferson County SAR team who were support and command.

The remote location where the accident occurred is located on the east side of Mt. Jefferson, within the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness area, within the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Indian Reservation, in Jefferson County.

“I’m proud to be able to help our friends from the Warm Spring Police Department who don’t have a mountain rescue crew, but were able to assist financially to make this operation happen,” Sheriff Atkins stated. “Thank you to Chief William Elliot and tribal council.”