National Guard saves injured climber in ‘high-risk’ rescue
A 40-year-old climber critically injured during a fall in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was medevaced from a cliff face Sunday by Alaska National Guardsmen, in a dangerous helicopter rescue.
Word of the fall, which occurred as a team was climbing the west side of the park’s Neacola Mountains, reached the Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage at about 10 p.m. Saturday, according to a Guard statement. An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter was sent to the scene to rescue the man, identified by Alaska State Troopers as Emmett Lyman.
Weather conditions initially prevented the helicopter crew from reaching the site, where Lyman “was suspended by rope and climbing gear to the nearly vertical rock wall on the mountain.” After an attempt to climb to the site was also hindered by weather, the pararescuemen considered a risky jump down to the site carrying a litter.
“As the team prepared for the jump, changes in cloud cover allowed the helo to reach the area over the climber,” Guard officials wrote. “A pararescueman hoisted down to the injured man in a climbing harness and connected to the climber to hoist him back into the helicopter.”
“This was an extremely high-risk rescue due to the vertical nature of the mountain,” said RCC director Lt. Col. Keenan Zerkel. “The helicopter had to get further above the climber than they normally would for a routine hoist maneuver, requiring a longer hoist line.”
The maneuver also put the Pave Hawk’s rotors dangerously close to the cliff face, Zerkel said. In addition, the extended rescue forced the helicopter crew to refuel twice during the mission.
Lyman, who had suffered “severe trauma,” was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in critical condition at 6 a.m. Sunday.
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