Kenai Fjords Hiker Breaks Leg, Requires Helicopter Lift Out of Alaska National Park

by Jon D. B.

Alaska State Troopers provided air support for the hiker approximately two miles up Kenai Fjords National Park‘s Harding Icefield Trail.

State Troopers received a 9-1-1 call on Sunday, August 8 reporting a Kenai Fjords hiker unable to exit the trail. The call came in at approx. 6 PM, officials say, citing the individual had “sustained a lower leg injury” while traversing Harding Icefield Trail.

Stranded two miles up the path’s steep incline, Kenai Fjords National Park rangers would respond to the hiker’s position to provide immediate aid. Alaska State Troopers then surveyed the area for a landing zone. Once it became clear a helicopter would be needed, air support was called in to a landing zone. Bear Creek Fire Department provided further medical care and packaged the patient into a litter for transport.

Together, all responding agencies then carried the patient up the trail approximately a quarter mile to the helicopter landing zone. Guardian Flight arrived on location and successfully evacuated the injured hiker, despite “deteriorating weather conditions and impending loss of daylight,” Kenai Fjord cites in their statement.

Thankfully, the hiker’s injuries were non-life-threatening, and they were cleared from the site by 10 PM Sunday.

This was no small feat, either. As park rangers remind visitors, “The Harding Icefield Trail is a strenuous mountain route that gains approximately 1000 feet of elevation per mile. It is crucially important that all hikers carefully consider the challenges and hazards inherent to this route and choose less exposed trails during periods of inclement weather.”

Rangers also recommend that hikers “plan ahead and prepare for changing conditions by brining warm clothes, rain gear, sturdy footwear, sunglasses, sunscreen, and at least two liters of water per person.”

Kenai Fjords National Park Rescue Highlights Importance of Mountain Safety

“Kenai Fjords National Park staff sincerely appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Alaska State Troopers, Bear Creek Fire Department, Soldotna Dispatch, and the National Park Service Alaska Regional Communications Center that supports critical missions,” their statement concludes.

In this instance, the hiker’s life was saved by having a working, charged cellphone with them. Cellphone coverage is “very spotty in the park,” Kenai Fjords NPS website clarifies. But “on the waters and road leading to the park, cell coverage may still exist.”

Please dial 9-1-1 for emergencies in the Alaska park, which is a good rule of thumb for all national parks where cell service is available. In Kenai Fjords, dispatchers from the Seward area will likely be able to assist you. Within the Exit Glacier Area, however, visitors should report emergencies to rangers on patrol, or to staff at the Exit Glacier Nature Center.

If traveling the Kenai Fjords coast, a marine VHF radio (channel 16) or satellite phone may be the best way to contact the park or Coast Guard.

Basic Park Safety Can Save Your Life

Kenai Fjords National Park offers the following safety information to help guide any hike in the park:

  • Injuries: Be wary of falls. The trails in Kenai Fjords are few, but can be very steep or rocky. Be careful of your footing, especially during wet, icy, or snowy weather
  • Don’t go alone: There can be safety in numbers. It can be valuable to hike or kayak with at least one other person. Even then or especially if traveling solo, make sure someone else knows your plan, when you’ll be back, and who to contact if you don’t check in.
  • Know thyself: While medical services are available in Seward, the nearest major facilities are several hours away. If you know you have a medical condition, such as a heart problem, talk to your doctor about your travel plans to see if there is anything you should do to ensure a safe trip

Stay safe out there, Outsiders!