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Thread: Missing hikers found near Denali NP

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Default Missing hikers found near Denali NP

    The two female hikers who were the focus of an air and ground search in the rugged terrain surrounding Mt. Healy, were located by the Air National Guard Pavehawk helicopter that was assisting in the search effort around 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 23 approximately five miles north of Mt. Healy. Sybill Senn, age 22 from Newberry, South Carolina and Liza Weeks, age 22, from Bellingham, Washington, were both tired, but uninjured. Had they not been spotted from the air, they were close to a "containment" point staffed by the Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department. This was one of five points where it was determined that the two women would most likely come out if they descended the mountain.

    The women, both seasonal employees at the McKinley Chalets Resort in the Nenana Canyon located outside Denali National Park, were last seen at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21 at the Bison Gulch trailhead on the Parks Highway. They had told friends that they intended to hike to the Mt. Healy summit, and possibly continue further along the ridge to the Savage River.

    They had not planned to camp during their hike, but were carrying some overnight equipment, including a sleeping bag and stove. Their plans went awry when they became disoriented above the treeline due to low clouds and rain around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22. The National Park Service was notified at 8:30 a.m. when the women used a cell phone to call "911". The parkís communication center and search managers had intermittent cell phone contact with them until about 10:00 a.m., when the battery on their cell phone died. Prior to that, they had been instructed to stay where they were and make themselves visible to searchers.

    Search efforts were underway by early afternoon. Senn and Weeks remained at their ridge location for hours, and they saw aircraft flying overheard. They tried to make themselves more visible by spreading their gear on the ground, and using metal pans to signal, but they werenít spotted by the aerial searchers. At approximately 6:00 p.m. the two women began making their way down one of the drainages on the north side of Mt. Healy leading into Dry Creek. They had hiked approximately five miles through difficult terrain and dense vegetation when they were spotted from the air.

    Approximately 35-40 people were involved in the total search effort, including ground teams, two helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft and support personnel. Plans had been made to deploy more ground searchers into the field today, and increase the size of the area being searched.

  2. #2
    Member Roger45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Palmer, AK


    Other than the short time they were "lost", this is a mirror image of events last year I think. It will be interesting to see if they too had a GPS they felt was "broken" and followed gut instinct over technology like the other two did. Glad to hear they are alive and well...but someone needs to get the park service to start training these folks on having a campus, a GPS, topo maps, and how to use them together. They have to trust the technology gear to get them out of these scrapes.
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather


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