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Seizure may have triggered fall of Ptarmigan Peak climber

Craig Medred
Wendy Seltzer / flickr

Doctors now believe a 62-year-old climber who fell an estimated 1,000-feet down Ptarmigan Peak in the front range of the Chugach Mountains last week may have suffered a seizure that caused him to slip, according to the man's daughter.

Julia Ostrovsky said her father, Jan, doesn't remember what happened near the summit of the 4,911-foot peak that's about two miles from popular Flattop Mountain, but he's not the type to unintentionally go for a long slide.

"He's a really experienced climber" who had his ice ax in hand when he fell. Why he didn't use it is a mystery to everyone, and doctors think it might be because the fall started with a seizure. "They think that's what happened,'' Julia said.

Jan, the clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Anchorage, remains hospitalized at Providence Alaska Medical Center, but his condition has improved. "He appears to be doing well," Julia said.

Pararescue specialists from the Alaska Air National Guard's 212th Rescue Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson were at the scene of the fall quickly. They were able to stabilize Jan, who suffered serious head injuries, and rush him to Providence. A speedy rescue was made possible because climbing companions called 911 on a cell phone.

Chugach State Park rangers warn that there are many areas of the park in which cellphones will not work, but where there is service, prompt communication can be a lifesaver.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com