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Contact: Carrie Wittmer, 907-822-7255
Copper Center, AK—The National Park Service (NPS) and the Air National Guard Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (AK RCC) continue their efforts today to manage two separate incidents in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. One incident is the rescue of three mountaineers with various injuries from a location near Mt. Bona. The second is to rescue a plane pilot and passenger near Mt. Hawkins. Both parties are stranded by inclement weather conditions.
At approximately 7:30 a.m. on May 29th, NPS rangers were notified that two mountaineers on a high-altitude training mission experiencing high altitude sickness were stranded on Klutlan Glacier near Mt. Bona in the St. Elias Mountain Range in the southern district of the park. The mountaineers were on an expedition guided by St. Elias Alpine Guides based out of McCarthy, AK when they started having symptoms the night of May 28th. Dr. Jennifer Dow, NPS Alaska Region Medical Director and Emergency Room physician for Alaska Regional Hospital, was contacted for medical assistance that night.
Park rangers were notified of the emergency and requested assistance from AK RCC at 7:50 a.m. on May 29th. The AK RCC then requested assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons. An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter with a Guardian Angel team on board and an HC-130J Combat King II based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK were dispatched and attempted to access the mountaineers multiple times but were unsuccessful due to poor weather conditions.
At approximately 1:35 p.m. on May 29th, the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) notified the NPS Alaska Regional Communication Center (ARCC) of another emergency occurring in the park. Around the vicinity of Mt. Hawkins in the Chugach Range two individuals activated an InReach device, sending SOS and ‘rescue needed’ text messages to the IERCC. Paul Claus, chief pilot and owner of the Ultima Thule Lodge, was dispatched by the NPS to locate the plane but was unsuccessful due to weather. Weather conditions also prevented the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter that was already in the area from locating the plane, despite several attempts in the afternoon and evening. Early this morning, it was revealed that a third member of the mountaineering team on Mt. Bona had cold-related injuries. The three mountaineers are at the team’s drop off landing zone location at approximately 10,000 ft. elevation on the Klutlan Glacier.
Around-the-clock efforts to rescue victims of both incidents continue in coordination with the Alaska Air National Guard, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Search and Rescue Team, Ultima Thule Lodge, and St. Elias Alpine Guides.
Last updated: May 30, 2021