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Successful Rescue of Missing Hikers on Rugged Alaska Peak

"Meanwhile, my kid and his buddy made the smart choice and hunkered down in place, and Elijah managed to get enough power out of his phone to ping his location before his battery quit"

On July 8, Juneau Mountain Rescue (JMR) was called to participate in a joint rescue with SEADOGS to search Mount Roberts for two missing hikers.

“Fortunately, there were enough highly skilled JMR volunteers to assist in the search and rescue through the night,” stated the rescue team. “Big kudos to everyone that brought the boys back to safety, and it was a great team effort. The mom’s note of gratitude warms our hearts, and we are glad everyone is safe.”

Philip Buettel, father of one of the rescued hikers, released a statement about the rescue and his appreciation for the rescue team: It was a long night last night. My son, Elijah, and his friend, Cyrus, hiked Mount Roberts in Juneau yesterday. They went farther than planned and actually made it all the way to Sheep Mountain. They summited three different peaks to get there. They even sent me a video celebrating their achievement. But going the extra distance also meant they were late coming down. As they approached Mount Roberts on the return, the fog and rain rolled in, along with high winds, and they ended up in extreme low visibility, ill-equipped, turned around, and off-trail on one of Juneau’s most rugged peaks. Both their phones lost power and quit. So I started hiking up to try to reach them and guide them back down.

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. 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. Meanwhile, my kid and his buddy made the smart choice and hunkered down in place, and Elijah managed to get enough power out of his phone to ping his location before his battery quit.

Thanks to the rescuers from Juneau Mountain Rescue, Juneau SEADOGS, and the Alaska State Troopers, they were located at around 2am, and led off the mountain, scratched and bruised, exhausted, and soaking wet. Several hours of descent, some really valuable lessons learned, and we had them back safely. We cannot thank the women and men—and faithful hounds!—of Juneau’s rescue services enough. These are volunteers who regularly give their time and skills to prevent mishaps from turning into tragedies. We are forever in their debt. And thanks also to the good people of Goldbelt Tram for spooling up their tram cars in the wee-hours and providing much-needed access off the mountain and back down to sea level for my wayward wanderers. I love Juneau. This town is just packed with good people.

Always be sure to let others know where you’re going, and to be equipped with warm layers and water in case something goes wrong. A big thanks to the search and rescue techs out there in the field bringing folks home every day.