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Alaska Air National Guard rescues two stranded hikers on Rainbow Peak

An HH-60 Pave Hawk on a training mission. (Alaska Air National Guard)
An HH-60 Pave Hawk on a training mission. (Alaska Air National Guard)(KTUU)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 11:09 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Air National Guard rescued two hikers early Saturday morning who were stranded on Rainbow Peak trail for several hours Friday due to one sustaining an injury.

Both hikers were hoisted to safety by helicopter and sent to the Providence Medical Center before 1:30 a.m. Saturday, according to a National Guard press release.

On Friday morning, the two hikers undertook the 5.8-mile moderately trafficked hike in the southwestern region of Chugach State Park. During the trek, one of them was injured, stranding them on the trail into the night as cold temperatures overtook them.

A local air ambulance company was tasked with rescuing the hikers but was unable to reach them. The company passed the mission along to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, which then requested support from the National Guard’s rescue squadrons, who were capable of completing the rescue mission at night.

“It was dark and cold, and they had been there for a while before we got the call to assist, so with no overnight or survival gear, they needed help,” said Capt. Daniel Dickman, senior controller at the ARCC, in the release.

At 1:03 a.m. Saturday, the aircrew from the 210th Rescue Squadron and pararescue personnel from the 212th Rescue Squadron departed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in search of the hikers.

“It took 23 minutes for them to locate, save and deliver the hikers to medical care,” said Dickman.

Upon approaching Rainbow Peak, Lt. Col. Jeremy Groat, aircraft commander for the mission, said his crew found the hikers shining a light from their “flashlight or cellphone.”

“We pulled into a hover just downslope from them, saw they were hunkered down, and then went and hovered over them,” Groat said. “We sent down both PJs (pararescuemen), each with a rescue strop, then hoisted each patient up one at a time with a PJ (pararescueman).”

Fortunately, the release said both hikers had cellphone service, which helped them acquire assistance from the trail. But that’s not always the case when hiking in the backcountry of Alaska.

“We recommend always having some form of communication and a backup form of service, such a beacon or satellite tracker,” said Dickman.

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