Rescue team brings man down from Mt. Roberts

Hiker tumbled into area with unstable rock

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

An Anchorage man, 40, stranded during a hike down Mt. Roberts, was rescued about 2 a.m. Sunday - almost eight hours after tumbling to a "very precarious position" on a ledge.

According to firefighters, a family took the Mt. Roberts Tramway up during Saturday's free day. Two or more brothers from the family decided to hike the Mt. Roberts Trail down, but one left the switchbacks and began a descent straight down to Gastineau Avenue.

"He got well off the trail and took a tumble," said George Reifenstein, tram manager and coordinator for the Juneau Rope Rescue Team.

The man, whose name was not released, "took a pretty good fall and ended up in a very precarious position. His clothing got torn up," Reifenstein said.

People on Gastineau heard someone calling for help about 6:20 p.m. Saturday and called 911. Before rescue dogs could reach the scene, two people who heard the cries hiked up and found the man on a ledge. The rope rescue crew and Juneau Mountain Rescue were called in, about 15 men total, Reifenstein said. Police and troopers helped pinpoint the man's location.

"A lot of rock was coming down. There was a great concern for rescuer safety up and down and trying to get anchoring systems set up," Reifenstein said.

The man was at 800 or 900 feet elevation in a very steep gully below the snowline, Reifenstein said. One medic and one climber went up first to stabilize the injured man. Ten climbers followed, secured the man in a litter and, for part of the distance, had to lower him down with ropes attached to trees because of the 70-degree slope.

The weather was clear and the moon was out during the rescue, although one firefighter suffered a turned ankle. The injured hiker finally reached Gastineau Avenue on a litter about 2 a.m.

"It went very well, but these things take time," Reifenstein said. "It was a lengthy process because that mountainside has not only loose scree at a very steep angle but also rusted metal from an old mining snow shed. It's very dangerous going."

The injured man arrived at Bartlett Regional Hospital at 2:15 a.m. Sunday, and was admitted for treatment of multiple injuries, said Marijo Toner, Bartlett's regional affairs coordinator. He was released in good condition at 12:45 p.m. Sunday, Toner said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.

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