Pair of hikers rescued from Resurrection Pass

A trail through mountains and trees and brush
Resurrection Pass trail in August 2020. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Air National Guard rescued two hikers on Resurrection Pass trail early Wednesday after the hikers said they were unable to make it through snow and water in the pass.

The hikers were about two-thirds of the way down the roughly 40-mile trail toward the Cooper Landing trailhead when they called for help, said Dave Bedard. He’s the public affairs director for the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guardsmen that conducted the rescue.

He said the hikers’ satellite phone really expedited the rescue.

“I think the big takeaway is that even if you are well prepared going into the Alaska wilderness, you can get in over your head,” Bedard said. “Which is why you prepare.”

The hikers called the Alaska State Troopers around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. They said they were tired and had encountered more snow than expected. One reported falling in the water and were cold, according to troopers.

The dispatch said the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was contacted around four hours later, at 3:18 a.m. Wednesday. The center then called Guardsmen for assistance, and they launched two helicopters — a Combat King II and a Pave Hawk from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The first helicopter flew ahead to check on the weather below amid low visibility.

Bedard said the rescue coordinators asked the hikers via satellite phone to turn on their headlamps so the second helicopter, the Pave Hawk, could find them. The hikers told the coordinators they could hear the helicopter when it was getting close, which let the crew know they were in the right spot.

The crew of the Pave Hawk found the hikers and a crew of pararescuemen brought the hikers onboard. The retrieval happened around 5:14, according to the Trooper dispatch. The helicopter transported them to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Bedard said the hikers had the tools they needed to communicate with the rescuers, which was crucial.

“If you’re prepared and you do get over your head, if you have survival equipment, if you’ve let a loved one know where you’re going, if you have two-way satellite communications, either via text or via voice — then that will provide for a better outcome,” Bedard said.

Mona Spargo with the National Forest Service, which manages the trail, said Thursday the Resurrection Pass Trail still has about 5 miles of snow cover.

She said some of the bridges are underwater from spring flooding. While that’s relatively normal this time of year, Spargo said the water level might be up a little higher this year because of heavy snow this winter.

Spargo also said hikers can expect downed trees across the trail.

The Alaska State Troopers also rescued a man from Resurrection Pass Trail in 2018 when he encountered too much snow to continue.

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