Youth group rescued after becoming stranded at Multnomah Falls

COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE - A few scrapes and bruises, and a really memorable story to tell.

That's what a youth group came away with after a night spent stranded above Multnomah Falls.

A group of one adult and five teenagers set out on a hike Wednesday and got lost while heading back. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said the group went off the trail it was on and got stuck at a cliff. They could see the river and highway, but couldn't get back.

"It's real deceptive," said Lt. Steve Alexander with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. "It looks so much closer than it actually is. You see it and you think point A to point B is the best way to go. Well, a lot of times there's a reason the trail is where it is because going straight from point A to point B isn't the best way to go and you can end up running into the situation they have."

Around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, someone in the group called 911 to a report that they were lost and rescuers set out to find them.

After initial crews determined the hikers' position was too precarious for a traditional rescue, Portland Mount Rescue began hiking in at around 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

When they reached the stranded hikers almost three hours later, they set up a rope rescue and began hauling everybody back up the hill. The last member of the group made it to the top of the hill around 1:30 p.m., and the group headed back out.

The group consisted of Julie Fritz, 57 of Grass Valley, Ore., two teens from Grass Valley, one teen from Oregon City and two teens from Gladstone. They are all members of a non-denominational church group called Christian Youth in Action.

The group was in good spirits when they reunited with their families. Everybody was OK, other than a few scrapes and bruises. A small group, they said they tried to make the best of their situation.

One of the hikers said the group had tried to find their way back on the path to no avail.

"We'd completely gotten off the beaten path, and we could see the Columbia River from the top of the hill and it looked like a 10-minute walk," hiker Jason Earl said. "...Obviously not."

Rescuers said staying where they were once they realized they were lost was the key in their rescue.