Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 10:45 pm
Location: Somewhere rocky or salty.
|Nice to see a good news story once in a while.
A high-altitude rescue on Mount Logan requiring three flights by Trans North Air’s high-altitude helicopter ended successfully Thursday night.
Clint Walker, Trans North’s operations manager, said this morning the company was standing by for the past few days waiting for the weather to break.
Pilot Dion Parker was finally able to lift off at 5 p.m. from the base camp on Mount Logan and get into the site at 17,500 feet.
It is perhaps the highest mountain rescue by a Canadian helicopter on record, he said.
Walker said the company’s high-altitude Bell 206 Long Ranger is stationed in Haines Junction.
For this operation, though, Trans North decided to send in its A-star 350 B3 chopper from Whitehorse because of its greater high-altitude capabilities.
Because of the winds and such, the pilot was forced to climb to 20,000 feet to get into the site, he said.
Walker said pilots are generally required to use oxygen above 10,000 feet, depending on how long they’re above that altitude.
He said the pilot was able to land at the site, and required three trips to get the group of climbers off the mountain.
Specifics about the climbing team and how the emergency developed a couple of days ago were not available this morning. Kluane National Park staff were preparing an information bulletin.
Parks Canada communications officer Elise Maltin said three climbers were involved, and the rescue effort was supported by a visiting safety team from Banff, Alta., and by a team from the U.S. National Park Service out of Denali in Alaska.
Anne Morin, Parks Canada’s Yukon superintendent, said in a statement this morning: “As always, they are a very impressive and professional team that do us all proud,”
Retired Trans North pilot Doug Makkonen said he understands the rescue involved three experienced climbers from Denali, one of them a climbing instructor.
The team was on their way down when weather socked them in, said the Haines Junction resident who spent more than 30 years flying out of the community.
Makkonen said the climbers had food and fuel for melting water, but had they been stuck up there for another week or so, they could have run into problems.
It’s his understanding it wasn’t the climbers who called the alert but their families, who had become worried after talking to them by satellite phone, he said.
Makkonen said the pilot deserves credit.
“There’s not a lot of guys that would even dream of going there,” he said. “There are so many variables to do that.”
Mount Logan in the St. Elias Mountains is Canada’s highest at 19,551 feet, and the second-highest in North America next to Alaska’s Denali at 20,237 feet – formerly Mount McKinley.
Mount Logan attracts climbers from around the world every spring, with the climbing season running from mid-April to mid-June.
The A-star B3 holds the record for high-altitude work on Mount Everest, and there’s only one in the Yukon, and just a handful in Canada.
Walker said while Parker completed the rescue in the A-star, the company’s Jet Ranger outfitted with high-altitude capability was on standby at the Haines Junction base to assist if required.
Parker, he said, is experienced at and fully certified for high-altitude rescue work.
Flying and landing under normal operating conditions are one thing, but at 17,500 and 20,000 feet, it’s a different story, Walker said.
“Up at those altitudes, everything has to be textbook.
“Having trained and experienced Parks Canada staff close at hand, and a suitable helicopter capable of completing the task, helped ensure a very positive outcome to this mission,” Walker said. “This mission highlights the importance of maintaining trained and experienced staff in Kluane National Park.”
"I don't know which is worse, ...that everyone has his price, or that the price is always so low." - Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes)