Friday, Jun 29, 2007
On the morning of Monday, June 18th, two members of a family of four fell while ascending the Golden Stairs near the US/Canadian border on the Chilkoot Trail. The family consisted of an 80-year-old man, his two sons, and one of his grandsons. The weather was foggy at the time, with approximately 30 meters of visibility and winds of from 10 to 15 mph. A light rain and cool temperatures left the snow on the trail slick and icy. Two members of the party had hiked on ahead, leaving the 80-year-old man and his 50-year-old son behind. The older man thought that he was nearing the top of the first of two summits and stopped to look up to see how close he was. Due to the weight of his pack and the 60-degree slope, the action of looking upward set the man off balance and he began to slide downhill. The son attempted to stop his father by grabbing his foot as he slid past, but was unsuccessful. Both men slid about 70 to 80 meters down the slope. A GPS in their possession later revealed that they had traveled at a top speed of 39.8 mph before they came to rest in an exposed talus slope. Ranger Jeremy Prater responded from the summit and found both patients alert, sitting up, and calmly talking. The older man had lacerations to his forehead and eye which were bleeding profusely; the younger man had various lacerations, the worst of which was an avulsion on his left tibia, just below the knee, which went all the way to the bone. Despite the severity of the cut, it was not bleeding and there was no obvious deformity and he had full range of motion and sensation in his foot. A Parks Canada patrol person arrived on scene to assist with medical care. Both patients were stabilized, dressed in warmer clothes, and given hot food and drink while rangers and the patrol person assessed the possibility of evacuating the patients off the mountain. Due to the fog, the stability and willingness of the patients, and the potential for hypothermia while waiting for the weather to shift, a decision was made to move to a lower elevation where a helicopter landing zone could be established. During the slow descent, the fog began to lift and a closer LZ was established. A TEMSCO helicopter flew Skagway VFD chief Mark Kirko and firefighter/EMT Colin Aikman to the LZ, and the patients were transported to the Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway for treatment. The park extends its thanks to Parks Canada and the Skagway Volunteer Fire Department for their assistance during the incident. Ranger Dave Keltner was IC.