Vancouver man rebounds after fall while hiking in Columbia Gorge

Accidental step off path fortunately lined up with a branch

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A 75-year-old Vancouver man spent almost an hour dangling off the side of an Oregon trail in the Columbia Gorge on Sunday before being rescued by firefighters.

Carl Ahrens was walking the Latourell Falls trail with his wife and daughter Sunday afternoon when he misstepped and fell off the path. He grabbed a branch about 20 feet down and held on for about an hour before firefighters were able to rescue him.

“It was very fortunate to have a branch right there,” Ahrens said Monday. “It was the only branch on the whole side of the hill.”

Multnomah County Fire District 14’s crews had a difficult time bracing their rescue equipment along the trail, but did a wonderful job, Ahrens said.

His daughter called 911 and talked to a dispatcher.

What goes through your mind when you’re dangling from a cliff?

“You just simply say, ‘This is what you’ve got to do,’ ” Ahrens said.

He dug his right foot into the hill to help stabilize himself.

Ahrens managed to get out of the predicament with a few scrapes and bruises and his leg gave out on his 45-minute trip back down the trail with firefighters.

Latourell Falls is the closest of the Gorge waterfalls from Portland, about 25 miles from the city.

He goes on frequent hiking trips with his family. Last weekend, he hiked at Mount Rainier.

“We decided that we’re going to bypass the Columbia Gorge and stick to hikes that don’t have that crumbly stuff on it,” Ahrens said.

He plans to give himself a few days to get his body back in order. Then he plans to return to his usual routine — two hours of exercise daily and hiking trips.