National Guard Rescues 12 Mountaineers From Alaska Glacier in Record-Breaking Feat

June 4, 2021Hannah Ray Lambert
CH-47 chinook helicopter Alaska

A CH-47 Chinook from 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard, prepares to land in Seward, Alaska, on May 18, 2021. US Army National Guard photo by Dana Rosso.

Alaska Air and Army National Guardsmen rescued a dozen mountaineers on Tuesday from the Klutlan Glacier, a record-setting feat that took four days due to weather complications.

The rescue response started Saturday when the National Park Service received a GPS beacon notification from mountaineers who were caught in bad weather and experiencing high-altitude sickness in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, according to the Alaska National Guard. The 176th Wing launched an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and an HC-130J Combat King II with pararescue personnel, but high winds, snow, and low visibility over the glacier foiled multiple attempts to reach the mountaineers.

Crews tried to drop medical supplies twice to tide the mountaineers over until medics could arrive, but 60 mph winds and poor visibility even foiled those efforts, said Maj. Chelsea Aspelund, public affairs chief for the 176th Wing.

Klutlan Glacier
A US Geological Survey climbing party ascends the Klutlan Glacier in 1990. Photo courtesy of the US Geological Survey.

Finally, rescue coordinators called in a CH-47 Chinook. After more than 20 attempts, the Chinook crew landed on the glacier Tuesday afternoon, according to the Alaska National Guard. All 12 mountaineers and about 1,000 pounds of gear were brought on board. The flight medic stabilized two people with high-altitude sickness and treated a third for minor frostbite.

The retrieval of the mountaineers is the first high-altitude heavy airlift the Army National Guard Chinook has ever conducted in Alaska, Aspelund told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Tuesday’s rescue came just a day after the rescue of two New York men stranded after a plane crash on Mount Hawkins, which also is in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The pilot and his passenger crashed Saturday in a remote area about 100 miles from the 12 mountaineers, resulting in the redirection of some rescue assets, Aspelund said. Weather also complicated that rescue. A Pave Hawk aircrew managed to hoist the men from the crash site on Monday.

Read Next: Marines Request Dozens of Ship Killing Missiles for Littoral Regiment

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
USS Arizona
Profile of a Ship: USS Arizona

When the USS Arizona sank, it took 1,177 crew members with it. Today it remains beneath the water as a memorial to all those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

b1 bombers bosnia
US Bombers Fly Over Bosnia in Sign of Support Amid Continued Secessionist Threats

A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew low over Sarajevo and several other Bosnian cities...

SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird: The Spy Plane That Could Outrun Missiles

Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird was a government secret for years. Now retired, a newer version plans to take its place.

medal of honor recipient remains returned
Missing 73 Years, Medal of Honor Recipient's Remains Return To Georgia

Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment made a desperate retreat as North Korean troops closed in arou...

dear jack
Dear Jack: My Battalion Is Out of Control

In this installment of “Dear Jack,” Marine veteran and amateur life coach Jack Mandaville advises a lieutenant colonel on how to restore order in the lower ranks.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor: A Long and Epic History

For more than 150 years, the Medal of Honor has been used to recognize acts of extraordinary battlefield courage performed in service to the United States.

navy seal training
Navy SEALS Training Plagued by Massive Problems, According To Investigation

Medical oversight and care were “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidat...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved