Troopers: Six rescued from Girdwood gorge, one arrested on warrant

The Alaska Mountain Rescue Group extracted an injured 19-year-old Anchorage hiker and five companions from a gorge near Girdwood's Crow Creek Mine on Sunday night, authorities say.

Alaska State Troopers identified the injured hiker as Stephanie Mraz.

Rescuers say Mraz slipped and injured her ankle after the group descended the steep walls above a creek. Then they all realized they couldn't get back out as darkness fell and the temperature dropped.

The rescue took place in an area described as several hundred yards from the mine parking lot. By the time the Mountain Rescue Group arrived around 8 p.m., it was "damp, dark and slippery" in the gorge, said team member Matt Green. The hikers were on a flat area in a narrow, steep-sided ravine.

"They were all together," Green said. "They had a little fire going."

Troopers said it didn't appear alcohol or drugs were involved.

Before the rescue, the group had been following a creek bed that flows through the gorge and is used as a trail at low water, according to an email from trooper Sgt. Michael Zweifel.


"They shimmied their way down the cliff using a rope, downed tree, and the cliff face," Zweifel wrote.

Troopers identified the other people in the group as Dominique Thatcher, 22, of Anchorage; Richard Kahle, 25, of Houston; David Falk, 28, of Anchorage; Victoria Sperber, 40, of Bethel; and Devin Shaw, 36, of South Carolina.

Someone in the group reported the injured hiker to troopers and the U.S. Forest Service at 5:19 p.m., troopers said. Zweifel said troopers opted to call the rescue group because the hikers couldn't be reached without someone rappelling down to them.

One rescuer was lowered to Mraz and the others raised them out together, then team members put the other five on safety ropes to make sure they didn't fall as they clambered out, incident commander Eric Huffman said.

"If they do slip, it's added safety," Huffman said. "It's dark. They're obviously not prepared or they wouldn't be in that situation. They've been down there for five hours."

Everyone was out by 10:18 p.m.and members of the Girdwood Fire Department helped the injured hiker down the trail, troopers said.

About a dozen members of the rescue group responded, along with several troopers, a Forest Service employee and a number of people from the Girdwood fire department as well as an ambulance.

Mraz refused transport to a hospital by ambulance but it wasn't clear if she was taken by somebody else, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Troopers say that after the rescue, they arrested Thatcher on an outstanding arrest warrant on an original charge of driving on a revoked license and booked her at Anchorage Jail.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.