Skier still missing in Hatcher Pass; search helicopter unable to land

Dangerous avalanche conditions barred searchers for another day Thursday from landing in Hatcher Pass to look for 33-year-old Liam Walsh, who was last heard from Sunday when he took a solo skiing trip in the area, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Beth Ipsen, troopers spokeswoman, said in an email that a helicopter carrying volunteers, a search dog and an avalanche forecaster flew over the area Thursday. The group looked for Walsh from the sky but found no signs of him, Ipsen said.

An avalanche warning remained in effect Thursday for Hatcher Pass, a popular recreational area in the Talkeetna Mountains northwest of Palmer, said the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. The information center said that a skier remained missing in the area and asked people to remain respectful of the rescue efforts.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends at this difficult time," the information center posted on its website.

Ipsen said Hatcher Pass Road remained closed Thursday after it was buried by a large avalanche Tuesday. No one could get to Hatcher Pass on foot or by car because of the blocked road and high avalanche danger, Ipsen said.

Shannon McCarthy, a spokesperson with the state Department of Transportation, said the road will likely remain off limits until next week. An avalanche crew will try to assess the conditions Friday, she said, but the area remains very unstable.

Dean Knapp, with Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, said Thursday that volunteers and troopers would reconvene to determine where to go next with the search for Walsh. He warned of the unstable snowpack in the Hatcher Pass area and the continued threatening weather.


"There are lots of days it's good to go play in the mountains," he said. "There are other times when it's not so good to do that. This is one of those times."

Walsh, of Wasilla, told family and friends that he was going to Hatcher Pass to ski Sunday and would be back by evening, troopers said.

About 7:15 p.m. Monday, troopers said they were notified that Walsh was missing. Troopers located Walsh's car in a parking lot near Mile 13.5 Hatcher Pass Road but found no sign of him.

Troopers called the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group Tuesday morning, Knapp said. Rescuers tried to get to Hatcher Pass but the avalanche had shut down the road. They tried to fly out Wednesday but the helicopter had to turn back due to weather, he said.

"It's a dangerous situation up there," he said. "We need to approach it carefully."

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.