Two missing hikers have been located at Glacier National Park. The two female hikers are employees in the Science and Resource Management Division at Glacier National Park. A friend of one employee and a family member of the other employee both contacted park staff to report the overdue hikers early Monday morning, August 31, after the two had not returned from a personal day hike Sunday night as planned.
Search efforts were launched Monday morning. Based on their planned itinerary, the search area was focused in the area between Logan Pass and Sperry Chalet. This high alpine area includes treacherous country filled with rock cliffs, water falls, wet and slippery rocks and boulders, and dense vegetation. A storm had moved through the area Sunday evening, resulting in inclement weather and limited visibility.
Several National Park Service ground search teams responded. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and US Forest Service provided valuable aerial support. A park incident management team was organized to manage the search and rescue. More than 40 park staff and cooperators assisted.
Aerial search efforts were hampered Monday afternoon due to high winds and low visibility. However the two missing hikers were located late Monday on a cliff face above Avalanche Lake.
The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office’s Two Bear Air Rescue helicopter hoisted the two injured hikers out of the area at approximately 7am on Tuesday morning August 1, once daylight had arrived and the weather had improved. Both hikers had sustained a leg injury as a result of a fall. Park staff provided initial treatment. The hikers were then transported to the hospital for more definitive care.
The following factors contributed to the success of this rescue operation. The hikers had planned ahead and were prepared with proper footwear, clothing and equipment. They travelled as a pair. They were experienced hikers and were prepared for the challenging terrain. They also left their planned itinerary with someone, which greatly aided in timely search and rescue response.
Risk is inherent with backcountry travel in Glacier National Park and there is no guarantee for visitor safety. Significant hazards include stream and river crossings, steep snowfields, precipitous cliffs and ledges, unstable sedimentary rock, dangerous wildlife, and ever-changing weather, including sudden snowstorms and lightning. The best insurance for a safe and enjoyable trip rests with your ability to exercise good judgment, avoid unnecessary risks, and assume responsibility for your own safety while visiting Glacier’s backcountry.
All visitors are encouraged to use a voluntary day trip plan form, available on http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/hikingthetrails.htm, which can be used to help search personnel concentrate search efforts along your intended route, saving critical time and possibly reducing risks to responders. Additional backcountry planning tips are available in the Glacier National Park Backcounty Guide, available on http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.