Rangers at Crater Lake National Park want to talk with a man — who may be from Bend — seen Friday sliding down the steep slope between the crater rim and the lake.
“We just want to make sure he is OK,” Marsha McCabe, spokeswoman at the park, said Monday.
A ranger spotted the man Friday evening slipping toward the lake from the Rim Trail just north of Discovery Point, about a mile northwest of Rim Village. Hiking and climbing in the caldera are illegal except along the Cleetwood Cove Trail, so the ranger tried to catch up with the man and stop him.
At one point the ranger came close enough to talk with the man, who gave a bogus name and said he was from the Bend area. McCabe said rangers are trying to confirm if he is from Bend and discover his real name.
“Other than a description, we don’t know anything about him,” McCabe said.
The man is described as being in his 40s, weighing 150 pounds and standing about 5 feet 10 inches tall. He had long, dirty blonde hair and a full beard. He had a sleeve tattoo on one arm. He also wore a blue backpacking pack, a knee brace on one leg and a bandage wrap on the other.
Rangers believe he may be a Pacific Crest Trail hiker and reached out to the hiker community to see if they could find any information on him.
A weekendlong search, which included boats, helicopters and rope teams, revealed only one clue about the mystery man.
“We have not found his pack or any gear,” McCabe said, “other than his sunglasses.” Searchers found the glasses near skid marks the man made between the top of the rim and the lake.
The trail is about 1,000 to 1,500 feet above the surface of the water, and McCabe said the combination of loose rock and steep slope make it hazardous — and off limits to hikers and climbers.
“We don’t allow people (to hike or climb in the caldera) because it is just a very dangerous situation,” McCabe said.
Steep slopes pose a danger to PCT hikers and they should approach them with caution, said Jack Haskel, trail information specialist with the Pacific Crest Trail Association in Sacramento, California.
“It is extremely important for hikers to stay away from the edge of cliffs,” he said. “Falls do happen. Falls are one of the primary ways to die in the backcountry.”
If caught going into the caldera in places aside from the Cleetwood Cove Trail, where visitors go to catch tour boats, hikers could be subject to citations and fines. McCabe said rangers aren’t looking to fine the man who is the subject of the search.
They just want to know if he’s alive, McCabe said. Searchers checked “every nook and cranny” around where he was last seen.
“He may have come out (of the caldera) and nobody saw him,” she said.
Anyone with information about the man is asked to call Crater Lake Dispatch at 541-594-3060.
— Reporter: 541-617-7812, firstname.lastname@example.org