Courtesy photo / Juneau Mountain Rescue
Two hikers, third and fourth from the right, were rescued after being stranded on Mount Roberts Wednesday evening by rapidly changing weather.

Courtesy photo / Juneau Mountain Rescue Two hikers, third and fourth from the right, were rescued after being stranded on Mount Roberts Wednesday evening by rapidly changing weather.

2 hikers stranded by weather rescued off Mount Roberts

Juneau’s mercurial weather left them high, but not dry.

Juneau Mountain Rescue and a number of other groups participated in the rescue of two young men had been stranded by sudden foul weather on Mount Roberts late Wednesday night.

The two were returning from Sheep Mountain on Wednesday afternoon when a turn in the weather left them in distress, said Jackie Ebert, president of JMR, in a phone interview.

“They went all the way to sheep mountain. They were actually on the peak of what is Mount Roberts,” Ebert said. “They just probably ended up hiking further than they thought and the weather came down on them.”

[Multiple earthquakes occur near Klukwan]

When they found themselves disoriented, Ebert said, they made a good decision and contacted their parents. Philip Buettel, one of their fathers, attempted to assist them before twisting his ankle, according to a social media post.

“About a mile in I ended up twisting my ankle badly and had to make the decision to get myself back down the mountain before there were three people stuck up there in need of rescue,” Buettel said in a social media post. “As night fell it became clear they weren’t going to be able to communicate with us, or to orient themselves safely and find their way down. I called 911 and asked for assistance and the Alaska State Patrol got to work organizing a search.”

Ebert said JMR got the call around midnight on Wednesday and were able to have people scrambled within approximately 40 minutes. Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway was instrumental in getting searchers in position, Ebert said.

“The tram offered to open up, which saves us an hour on the hike,” Ebert said. “They opened up and shuttled up.”

JMR personnel, assisted by two search dogs from Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search and coordinated by the Alaska State Troopers, were able to locate the two hikers expeditiously, and everyone was down off the mountain by approximately 8 a.m. Thursday morning, Ebert said. Having their approximate location from their cellphones before their phones died made a considerable difference, Ebert said.

“It really helps that we know their location so we don’t have to do as much search,” Ebert said. “The more notice we can get, it gives our folks the opportunity to get sunlight hours on the mission.”

Summer is usually a busy season for JMR and other rescue organizations, Ebert said, with three or four calls in the last month and more standbys.

“We actually had a rescue last week. Someone out at west glacier got stuck and had to call for help. It’s kinda that time of year,” Ebert said. “We can definitely tell that there’s more visitors in town based on the volume of calls from the last couple of years.”

Preparedness is key to avoiding requiring rescue, Ebert said. Juneau’s swift and often significant shifts in weather can endanger someone who’s not prepared with appropriate consumables and clothing. Not trying to out-stubborn the mountain, but calling for help when there’s a problem, gives the best chance of a good outcome, Ebert said.

“Be prepared. The weather is always changing,” Ebert said. “Call early.”

Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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