Two hikers were rescued from the Rainbow Peak trail south of Anchorage early Saturday morning after one of them sustained an injury that left them stranded, the Alaska Air National Guard said.
They were hoisted up into a rescue helicopter and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center, arriving just before 1:30 a.m., the Guard said in a statement.
An air ambulance company originally attempted to reach the hikers, who were halfway down the trail, but was unable to do so, according to the Guard.
The company called the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, which then requested support from the Alaska Air National Guard’s rescue squadrons. They have the capability to fly in the dark as well as hoist down pararescue personnel to reach survivors, the Guard said.
The nature of the hiker’s injuries and the amount of time they were out on the trail weren’t immediately clear. The Guard said in its statement that the injured person “was unable to continue hiking for several hours as nightfall and colder temperatures set in,” and senior controller Capt. Daniel Dickman said the hikers had “been there for a while” without survival or overnight gear before the rescue coordination center received the call.
The aircrew from the 210th Rescue Squadron, as well as pararescue personnel from the 212th Rescue Squadron, left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in an HH-60 Pave Hawk at 1:03 a.m. Saturday. After they flew over a ridge on their approach to Rainbow Peak, Lt. Col. Jeremy Groat said, his crew saw the hikers’ light from a “flashlight or cell phone.”
The hikers were then hoisted up with pararescue personnel before the helicopter flew to the hospital, Groat said.
Both hikers had cell service, according to the Guard’s statement. Dickman recommended that hikers carry emergency gear and a backup form of communication since cell service may be unreliable to nonexistent in the backcountry.
The Rainbow trailhead is located along the Seward Highway about 6 miles south of Potter Marsh. Hiking the 5.8-mile round-trip trail, with an elevation gain of nearly 4,000 feet, involves traveling on steep, often rocky terrain with a considerable amount of exposure.