Searchers finally reach and rescue stranded Southeast hiker

James Halpin
Coast Guard photo by Air Station Sitka

Searchers on Wednesday afternoon found and rescued a hiker stranded without food for days on Meade Glacier near Haines, according to the Coast Guard.

Skagway resident Kyle Dungan, 28, was extracted from the area after a Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted him and a ski-equipped Army National Guard helicopter managed to land, Chief Dana Warr said. Dungan was taken to a clinic in Haines and was reported in stable condition,the Coast Guard reported.

"That vicinity is where we've been trying to get and it's been so difficult to get to for the last three days," Warr said. "Finally the weather broke and we got him."

Dungan was last heard from Sunday, when he radioed to the aircraft scheduled to pick him up that he was tired, weak and hadn't eaten in four days, according to the Coast Guard. Repeated attempts since Sunday to reach the hiker, who was out on a two-week trek, had been stopped because of fog and snow.

Dense fog broke enough Tuesday to allow a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter into the area, but its crew couldn't raise Dungan on the radio and was forced back to refuel.

Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard and Army National Guard sent out helicopters with members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue team aboard intending to drop them in for a ground-based rescue, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon-Paul Rios said.

The Coast Guard crew was forced to turn back about seven miles from the scene, he said. The Guard crew, which took a different route, made it about two miles from the location before having to turn back because of blowing snow, he said.

Searchers again left Juneau about 2:30 p.m. and made the pickup. He was picked up at the 5,100-foot level on the glacier, according to the National Guard.

Alaska State Troopers say Dungan, an experienced mountaineering guide, was dropped off by plane Feb. 20 for a two-week trek on the glacier in Tongass National Forest east of Haines. But when an aircraft showed up to pick him up at the rally point on Sunday, he wasn't there.

The airplane took off and spotted him about seven miles away but couldn't land because of rough terrain. Its crew dropped him a hand-held radio, over which he related his plight, authorities said.

The local flying service reported him stranded Monday. Since then, repeated attempts by private and Coast Guard aircraft to find him and pick him up had been unsuccessful because of winter storms blowing in the area. Troopers estimated the area has gotten 12 feet of snow since Feb. 20