Alaska News

Key dates in Alaska Mountain Rescue Group history

April 20, 1960 - First board meeting of the Alaska Rescue Group (ARG), original name of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group. Original members are Art Jess Jr., John Johnston, Jan Koeberle, Ted Koeberle, Hal Sherman, Janie Swanson and Stan Swanson. Membership fee: $1.

June 14, 1960 - A Pacific Northern airliner crashes on Mount Gilbert, killing 14. Erik Barnes, Andrew Brauchli, Paul Crews, Charles Metzger, Norman Pichler and Rodman Wilson of the Alaska Rescue Group are involved in the search.

Aug. 28, 1960 - Three days are spent searching for the missing hunter Jack Ryan on Sheep Mountain. Erik Barnes, Paul Crews, John Johnston, Ted Koeberle, Joe Pichler and Wayne Rhodes of the Alaska Rescue Group are involved.

Sept. 26, 1962 - A dozen Alaska Rescue Group members as well as the Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Army's 23rd Infantry and civilians search for missing hunter William York in Eagle River valley. After three days, York's body is found in the river.

July 1, 1963 - A climber dies in a fall on Seward's Mount Alice. Noted Alaska climbers Vin Hoeman and Dave Johnston are part of the climbing party and assist Alaska Rescue Group in retrieving the body.

June of 1967 - Ten climbers of the Wilcox Expedition are stranded on Mount McKinley. A Mountaineering Club of Alaska party that included some Alaska Rescue Group members went up the mountain after a deadly storm and returned later in the year to search for bodies and do a follow-up investigation.

April 12, 1971 - Climbers Grace Hoeman, John Samuelson and Hans Vanderlans are caught in an avalanche on Eklutna Glacier. Hoeman and Vanderlans are buried and killed, while Samuelson is able to ski out and report the incident. An avalanche and further snowfall prevent the Alaska Rescue Group from recovering the bodies.


July 1, 1977 - Three climbers roped together fall to their deaths about 1,000 feet from the summit of 5,686-foot Mount Carpathian. Alaska Rescue Group assists in the effort to recover the bodies. Weather conditions deteriorate with rain and snow accompanied by winds blowing up to 100 mph. The climbers are recovered during a brief break in the weather.

Jan. 21, 1978 - A Mountaineering Club of Alaska trip that includes former Alaska Rescue Group member Charles Kibler and three others perish in a Turnagain Pass avalanche. An interagency training group including Alaska Rescue Group members recovers the bodies in the spring as part of a training event.

1980 - Alaska Rescue Group is renamed the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.

Dec. 4, 1981 - A Thompson Pass avalanche buries a motor home with seven people inside. A nearby snowplow driver manages to escape and call for help. Alaska Mountain Rescue Group assists the troopers with the search and recovery of the bodies.

Dec. 18, 1981 - After a plane with four aboard crashes in Kahiltna Pass, several Alaska Mountain Rescue Group members - including Harry Johnson, Gunnar Naslund, Jack Dugan, Mike Goodwin, John Sweeter and Pete Panarese - help National Park Service ranger Bob Gerhart rescue two of the passengers. The other two perish.

July 8, 1982 - Climbing guide Gunnar Naslund, an Alaska Mountain Rescue Group volunteer who taught at Alaska Pacific University, dies of head and neck injuries after being hit by a falling cornice on Needle Mountain in the Granite Range. Three of his climber partners survive.

May 21, 1983 - Several Alaska Mountain Rescue Group members are flown by Leer jet to Yakutat to assist with the rescue of four people stranded on the Variegated Glacier after bad weather downs their helicopter.

Nov. 8, 1993 - An avalanche hits three skiers near Flattop Mountain, killing Anchorage-area geologists Bruce Hickok and Geoffrey Radford, both 38. Survivor Dave Hart, an Alaska Mountain Rescue Group member, said the skiers were crossing a gully on their way up Peak Three in Chugach State Park. A fourth skier witnessed the avalanche but was not caught in it.

June 29, 1997 - A UAA mountaineering class suffers a disaster on Ptarmigan Peak. Fourteen people on three rope teams fall 1,500 feet when the upper rope team slips and is unable to arrest their fall. Two are killed and 12 injured, several severely.

March 21, 1999 - Ten snowmachines and their riders are caught in a big Turnagain Pass avalanche averaging 4- to 6-feet deep. Six are buried and killed; three others are injured. Alaska Mountain Rescue Group helps with the recovery - along with 100 other volunteers who spend days probing the debris.

April of 2000 - Alaska Mountain Rescue Group gains accreditation by the national Mountain Rescue Association team.

July 3-4, 2005 - Alaska Mountain Rescue Group helps in a search for two teenage hikers lost in the Talkeetna Mountains. One teen is rescued; the body of the other teen is recovered.

June 4-10, 2006 - Climbing duo turns up missing on Infinite Spur, located on the south face of Mount Foraker. Some clues and footprints are spotted, but the climbers are never found. Park ranger Dan Hourihan, an Alaska Mountain Rescue Group member, introduces the use of high-resolution digital imagery for high-angle terrain searches on big peaks.

Feb. 23, 2008 - Alaska Mountain Rescue Group conducts a body recovery search in Seattle Creek for a missing snowmachiner, buried under 10 feet of fresh snow after a Feb. 16 avalanche. While moving the body to a helicopter for transport to Anchorage, a massive avalanche is triggered by a skier on Sunburst Mountain, located across the Turnagain Pass valley. Ian Wilson, a 24-year-old skier from Portland, Ore., was buried in the Sunburst avalanche. But Wilson wore an avalanche beacon, and Matt Murphy, a forecaster with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, was nearby with friends. They immediately started searching for Wilson's signal. After locating it and poking into the snow with a probe, they got a hit. Quickly digging down four feet, they hit a black backpack. They hauled a blue-faced Murphy out 30 minutes after the avalanche, He groaned, but color came back to his face and he survived - marking the first time an organized search and rescue has saved someone buried in avalanche.

Nov. 16, 2008 - An Alaska Mountain Rescue Group ground team rescues three exhausted and hypothermic snowshoers/skiers from Powerline Pass during cold snap. Bad weather prevents a state trooper helicopter from flying, and the ground search and rescue lasts until 5 a.m. the following morning.

Dec. 31, 2008 - Alaska Mountain Rescue Group ends the year with 44 missions, its most ever in a single year.

March 28, 2009 - A snowmachiner traveling out of Johnson Pass is caught and buried in an avalanche. A helicopter with rescue dogs is dispatched but forced down in Portage Valley by the ash cloud from erupting Mount Redoubt. Much later, the body is recovered.


Feb. 13, 2010 - Avalanches at the South Fork Eagle River and at Grandview kill three backcountry travelers - a skier in Eagle RIver and two snowmachiners in Grandview. Extended snowstorms delay the Grandview body recovery effort for more than a week. This is the largest Alaska Mountain Rescue Group-run mission since Turnagain Pass avalanche in 1999.

- Alaska Mountain Rescue Group archives