Lost snowshoer says she was prepared to spend the night in cold

PORTLAND, Ore. - Betsy Steinhart said she was prepared to spend the night on the mountain side after getting lost while snowshoeing on Dog Mountain.

Rescuers found the 36-year-old on Tuesday after she called the Skamania County Sheriff's Office with her cell phone at around 1 p.m., according to Undersheriff Dave Cox. She said she ran into heavy snow at about 3,400 feet and felt it was not safe to continue.

"Close to the top it was blowing close to 40 or 50 miles per hour. So the blowing snow started to be kind of a visibility problem. Then the cloud deck started to come down," she told KATU News Wednesday. "I had to break trail across a face where there was no trail, and that was pretty exhausting. And I kind of got to the point where I didn't feel comfortable continuing. And then when I made the decision to turn around and go back, my track was more or less covered up."

Steinhart thought about Katherine Huether who fell to her death three years ago while hiking on a nearby mountain.

"I thought about my kids, and I thought about the woman who lost her life on Table Mountain, and I didn't struggle with that for very long. I came to my limit and decided that was it," she said.

Steinhart reluctantly used her cellphone to call for help.

"I dug a snow cave, and I had branches underneath me so I wasn't sitting directly on the snow," she said. "I was pretty comfortable. ... I was burrowed in to the point that just my feet were sticking out."

A Coast Guard helicopter from Astoria, Ore. responded to the call, but couldn't help with the rescue because of high winds in the area.

It took searchers about three hours to reach Steinhart, Cox said. Rescuers brought her down the mountain by around 9:30 p.m.

Medics checked Steinhart at the scene but said she didn't need to go to the hospital.

Fifteen searchers from several different agencies took part in the rescue.

"These men did an excellent job of reaching Ms. Steinhart, and warming her sufficiently so they could bring her down the trail to meet up with the other teams when the weather made air operations impossible," said Sgt. Arne Gonser.

A day later Steinhart was frustrated by comments left by people on the Internet, blaming her for going out in bad conditions.

"It wasn't an emergency," she said. "I had what I needed to hunker down. If I needed to spend the night up there I was all right."

She had survival gear, including food and water. She said she always tells her family exactly where she's going and when she'll be back.

Since her cell phone had died, she used a whistle that she blew every two minutes to alert searchers to her location.