Three hunters were pursuing Dall sheep in the Chugach Mountains of south-central Alaska on Wednesday, Oct. 6 when they got caught in an avalanche. The Alaska State Troopers said in an online statement that two of the hunters were injured in the slide they likely triggered.
The hunters sent a distress signal from Hunter Creek Valley to a contact in Anchorage via a satellite communications device after the incident. Their contact called emergency services just past 9 p.m. on Wednesday night. Alaska's Rescue Coordination Center was also activated by the call, according to a press release from the Alaska Army National Guard.
National Guardsmen in a Black Hawk helicopter rescued the hunters from the mountain at 12:15 a.m. on Thursday morning in coordination with Alaska State Troopers and brought them to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Two of the three hunters are being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
“One of the guys was buried and the other two individuals had to dig him out,” Lt. Col. Michele Edwards said in the press release.
The buried hunter suffered from cold weather injuries and the other injured hunter dislocated a shoulder. The third hunter escaped unscathed.
The hunters used headlamps to signal the helicopter and rescuers, who were wearing night vision goggles during the search. They were able to land safely and evacuate the hunters without needing to airlift them off the mountain.
“To have avalanches this early in the season is definitely different, but I’m thankful that we’re able to stay prepared to assist and support our fellow Alaskans,” Edwards said.
This incident may encourage other high-elevation hunters to take an avalanche level 1 course. These classes provide a basic understanding of snow stability, self-arrest, and how to make educated decisions on glaciers, couloirs, snow fields, rock slides, and other avalanche terrain. Additionally, these folks would be wise to wear avalanche beacons and other safety gear that's become standard for backcountry skiers and mountaineers.
"This story perfectly outlines the benefits of being a well-rounded outdoorsperson," MeatEater Conservation Director Ryan Callaghan said. "While I am sure the hunters were experienced, this just goes to show you can always learn more."