Text message helps searchers locate lost hiker

Searchers easily located a lost hiker stuck atop a mountain near the Mendenhall Glacier on Thursday when the 28-year-old man texted Alaska State Troopers a picture of his surroundings.

Troopers showed the picture to a Temsco Helicopters Inc. pilot who was familiar with the area, and the pilot found the hiker in less than 30 minutes.

“He seemed like he was pretty excited and grateful,” pilot Eric Main said of the hiker’s reaction when the helicopter picked him up.

Troopers began searching for the hiker, whom they identified as Richard Lam, when Lam called them asking for help at about 4:45 p.m. Thursday. He was high up enough on the mountain to get cell phone service, said trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters.

“We had another rescue in a similar area the week before where someone didn’t have cell coverage,” Peters noted in an interview. “They were further down in the valley, but (Lam) was high up enough where his phone worked.”

Lam reported that he had been hiking East Glacier Trail and Nugget Creek Trail, which begin behind the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, and that he got lost and was stuck on a high ledge somewhere. He texted a picture of his location to Juneau-based trooper Christopher Umbs, who showed it to Temsco base manager and helicopter pilot Main.

Main instantly recognized the area as Middle Basin, one of the drainages off Heintzelman Ridge that feeds into Nugget Creek and Nugget Falls, the gushing waterfall to the right of the glacier.

Main guessed correctly that Lam was probably 2,800 to 3,000 feet up on the mountain in elevation in the upper Nugget Creek valley, based on the vantage point and the subalpine vegetation he could see in the photo.

“I was able to recognize what his perspective was or from thereabouts where he was, and I could see how high he was based on what the vegetation looked like,” Main said in a phone interview Monday. “It didn’t take really long to identify where he was. It took a little bit of flying around, but not long at all.”

“I think he hiked up, and then I believe when he was coming down, he got to a spot where he didn’t feel like he could continue safely anymore,” Main added of Lam’s situation.

The aerial search for Lam was hastened even further because he was wearing bright clothing.

“He had a bright orange shirt on, which makes it really nice for an aerial search,” Main said. “That was a big help.”

The helicopter swooped down and landed on the mountain, and Lam was able to climb in. He had a few scratches from bushwhacking through the trees but did not have any serious injuries that required medical attention, troopers said.

Lam was safely transferred to the Juneau International Airport. He couldn’t be reached for comment Friday or Monday.

Main, who has worked for Temsco for 10 years, assists with about six to 10 searches on average each summer in Juneau and the immediate surrounding area. The search for Lam marked the seventh or eighth search he has assisted with this summer, he said.

“Every search and rescue is a little bit different, but obviously we’re happy when one has a positive outcome like this,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t always find the people, and sometimes we find them when they’re in not such good condition, too.”

Temsco and other helicopter companies in Juneau are frequently asked to assist with searches and rescues since neither the troopers nor the U.S. Coast Guard have an operational helicopter based here. Troopers are responsible for coordinating all searches and rescues in the state, and they reimburse any company or person for the cost of the airfare. The Legislature created a special fund for that years ago.

More in News

LaDawn Druce asks Sen. Jesse Bjorkman a question during a town hall event on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District unions call for ‘walk-in’ school funding protest

The unions have issued invitations to city councils, the borough assembly, the Board of Education and others

tease
House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Most Read