Stranded hikers plucked from glacier

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2001

SITKA All 23 Ohio hikers stuck on a Baranof Island glacier Thursday were helicoptered to safety.

Rescuers originally planned to help 16 members of Adventure Plus, a nondenominational religious group, hike to their destination on the east side of the island after seven members were flown to Sitka, two of them for medical treatment. But after further consideration, the remaining hikers were flown out by the Coast Guard.

"Overall people are in very good spirits, except for a handful who were fatigued and didn't feel good at all," Petty Officer Darrell Wilson said after everyone was safely off Mount Bassie, a 4,423-foot mountain east of Sitka.

It was the second time in two years that some of the same hikers were rescued while attempting the same route.

Adventure Plus is sponsored by Stow Presbyterian Church in Stow, Ohio. The group combines missionary work with recreation, said Stephanie Appleton, 30, one of the leaders of the Alaska trip. Members, who are between 14 and 59, had just helped launch a youth program in Hoonah when they set off Saturday on what was to be a 23-mile hike.

The 14 teen-agers and nine adults were doing well until Wednesday morning, when they got fogged in at the 3,700-foot level, Appleton said. They radioed the Coast Guard and said they had a day's worth of food left. Several younger hikers started to panic and complained of feeling sick.

The fog and high winds prevented the Coast Guard and a Sitka Mountain Rescue crew from heading out Wednesday, Wilson said. Hikers huddled in their tents and waited, Appleton said. Thursday dawned clear and calmer and the rescue went ahead.

Fish and Wildlife trooper rescued

JUNEAU A Fish and Wildlife trooper missing overnight south of Juneau was found this morning safe and sound.

Clint Songer went out on patrol Thursday expecting to return by 4 p.m., said Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. He was taking Fish and Wildlife aide Phil Gray to Gilbert Bay, where Gray was to be dropped off for surveillance work.

"He dropped off Gray, but then his Boston Whaler's engine broke down near Taku Inlet. Fish and Wildlife Trooper Lt. Steve Bear spotted him from the air this morning and the Coast Guard is going to tow him back to Juneau," Wilkinson said.

Radio contact was not possible from the spot where the skiff broke down, Wilkinson said.

Petty Officer Roger Wetherell of the U.S. Coast Guard said his agency was alerted at 7:55 a.m. today that Songer, 25, was overdue from a trip to Snettisham, and the Coast Guard, LAB Flying Service, the Civil Air Patrol and all Juneau troopers began searching. A 47-foot motor life boat reached Songer about 10 a.m.

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