Unalaska Police: Missing Hiker’s Body Found In Pyramid Valley

Pyramid Peak in snow last winter, seen from the Unalaska Valley side of the trail. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)
Pyramid Peak in snow last winter, seen from the Unalaska Valley side of the trail. (Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

Unalaska police have confirmed that a person found dead in Pyramid Valley on Monday is 33-year-old Jessica Acker. She went missing while on a hike in the area on Sunday.

Acker appears to have taken a bad fall down an icy slope near Pyramid Peak. Police chief Jamie Sunderland says there were clear signs of trauma when they recovered her today.

“It does appear from the evidence at the scene that this apparent fall was a major factor in her death,” Sunderland said.

A search team spotted Acker Monday, but police and the Coast Guard couldn’t retrieve her body and confirm her identity at the time due to rough weather and low visibility.

Sunderland says a foot and a half of snow fell around Pyramid overnight. And conditions were still treacherous when public safety, the Coast Guard and a civilian guide went back to the scene this morning.

“Our crew that was up there described it as very icy under the snow,” Sunderland said. “Just to safely go up above where we located her and try to look for clues was quite hazardous due to the conditions.”

Pyramid is a 2,300-foot-tall peak surrounded by miles of popular hiking trails above Unalaska’s Captain’s Bay. That’s where Westward Seafoods is located. Acker worked there as a seasonal fisheries observer.

She was a groundfish technician with the state Department of Fish & Game in Sitka during the rest of the year. But Sunderland says she had spent time in Unalaska before.

“From family and friends, she had really traversed a lot of our island out here on foot, and she certainly had the gear on for a day hike,” Sunderland said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like she really notified anybody where she was going and when to expect her back, and unfortunately was also by herself.”

He says Acker had told a friend a few days before that she wanted to check out an area near the Icy Creek reservoir, about 30 minutes off the trail. There’s no cell service there, and even radio reception is patchy.

A search crew reached the spot by snowmachine and on foot to bring Acker back to Unalaska. Police have been in touch with her family in Wisconsin. Her body is will be sent to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Hiking-related deaths are rare in Unalaska. The last one on Pyramid was 20 years ago, when a visiting Coast Guard sailor took a fatal fall from a cliff high up on the mountain.

Annie Ropeik is a reporter for KUCB in Unalaska.

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