Woman walks out of woods as search starts up

Hiker loses shoe during trek; searchers say she was 'lucky'

Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Juneau woman whose friends and co-workers reported her missing Tuesday emerged from the woods in the Lemon Creek area Wednesday morning.

Shoukoufeh "Fay" Attaei, 42, told Bruce Bowler of the SEADOGS search team that she left on her hike at noon Saturday and lost her bearings while on Heintzleman Ridge. She also lost a shoe during her trek and walked three days with just one shoe. Bowler said she ate blueberries and snow and, dressed only in medium-weight cotton, covered herself with leaves to stay warm at night.

"The information (about Attaei) was pretty spotty," Bowler said. Friends reported seeing her vehicle near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, but there was no indication where she had gone. "We were reluctant to launch a full-scale search," he added, noting the risks inherent to the searchers.

Still, two dogs and one candidate dog from the search team - Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Searches - members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue team and a TEMSCO helicopter set out looking for her.

Alaska State Troopers reported the search began after Juneau police notified them at 3 p.m. that Attaei hadn't been to work in a couple of days and she had missed other appointments. It was centered on the trails near the glacier.

After it was suspended at nightfall, the search resumed at 5 a.m. Wednesday. But troopers reported it was called off after Juneau police received a report at 6:35 a.m. that the woman showed up at a Lemon Creek home.

Bowler said searchers were happy to hear Attaei was located, headed for Bartlett Regional Hospital in an ambulance. But he added that she made some mistakes on her hike.

"She was lucky," he said.

He said she came in with her exposed skin raw from devils club scratches and abrasions. But in addition to making a mistake by hiking alone without telling anyone where she was going, she was dressed in a cotton blouse, cotton-Lycra pants, cotton socks and sneakers - "a recipe for hypothermia," he said. Cotton absorbs cold water.

Bowler said he talked to her at the emergency room, where the woman - an Iranian who moved to Juneau two years ago - told him about her hike. She said she saw a river she couldn't cross, "much snow" and a mountain goat. She also heard the helicopter.

He said he asked her if she saw any bears, and she answered that she knew they were there. They were "very kind," she said.

Through a friend of hers who could interpret, Bowler asked her what kept her going.

She answered, "I didn't want my parents to go through another loss in the family. They lost a 30-year-old son not long ago," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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