Brittany Fintel was making a push for the summit of 8,663-foot Mount St. Helens, WA on Saturday morning when she lost her footing on snow and ice and fell hundreds of feet. She slid down more than 300-feet of snow, tumbling over and over, knocking into boulders until she came to a sudden stop.
“The moment I slipped, I literally thought I was dead,” Fintel told KATU in an exclusive interview. “I was just expecting that this was the end.”
Luckily, Fintel somehow came to rest just above another steep drop-off.
“I could’ve been going on for quite some time,” she said. “It was pretty much a miracle.”
A nurse and a search and rescue volunteer from another climbing group who witnessed the fall managed to scale the slippery snow patches to get to her, but her 7-year-old German shepherd service dog, Indy, reached her first.
“He was my first responder, essentially,” she said. “He made sure that I wasn’t in shock. He laid beside me, he licked me, he was extremely comforting.”
After assessing her injuries they radioed for help, and due to the treacherous, steep rocky location, responders called for a helicopter.
Fintel was later diagnosed with a broken hip, a concussion, and several deep lacerations, but nothing more serious. She expects to be in the hospital for a few more days before transitioning to outpatient care.
Learning from the experience, Fintel said she would do things differently next time:
“I probably should’ve been a little bit smarter when I came to the mountain. I didn’t have the proper equipment for the ice, didn’t have an ice pick to do self-arrest.”
Fintel said she had been hiking up the climbing route, but left the trail to hike on snow because her dog was more comfortable hiking on the cold, even surface.
“Mountains are dangerous things,” she said. “I just feel like I underestimated it.”