It took "one of the better rescues we've ever done," according to Whatcom County Fire District 14 Chief Jerry Debruin, but crews were able to extract a 25-year-old female hiker/photographer from a rock in the middle of Racehorse Creek just above the large bottom waterfall at Racehorse Falls Saturday evening.
The woman reportedly slipped while taking pictures near the falls, a popular hiking destination between Kendall and Welcome in Whatcom County. She was carried over at least one of the smaller upper falls at the location, Debruin said, but despite being injured, she was able to grab onto a rock and haul herself out of the water about 40 feet from the edge of the large falls that drop approximately 50 feet to rocks below.
"It was very lucky she was able to grab that rock and get out of the water," Debruin said. "That was probably the last rock she could have grabbed onto before going over the large falls."
Another hiker went to call for help, and Debruin said fire crews were dispatched at approximately 8 p.m..
With spring runoff, Debruin said Racehorse Creek was raging, creating a span of approximately 20 feet of rushing water between the rock the woman was perched on and the safety of the river bank.
The area is located in a canyon, with a sheer rock wall of at least 100 feet on one side and approximately 50 to 75 feet on the other, Debruin said, making the rescue extremely difficult.
Crews, which included Whatcom County Fire, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Department, the Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council, the Whatcom County Search and Rescue Council, Summit to Sound Search and Rescue and Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue, had to set up a rope to span those two cliffs and lower a basket and someone down to administer first aid to the woman, Debruin said. Crews were able to get her a blanket to lesson the effects of hypothermia.
"It was one of the better rescues we've ever done," Debruin said. "It was a good effort by everybody. ... It took a lot of skilled people to make that rescue happen. It was pretty technical."
After being lifted out of the canyon, the woman was transported by ambulance, Debruin said, arriving at St. Joseph Hospital at approximately 1:30 p.m.
"I think it's a good opportunity, not to brag about what we did, but to say how dangerous that area can be and remind people to be careful," Debruin said, referring to a similar rescue that was made approximately a year ago.