'That's What We Do'

Sitka Mountain Rescue doing what they do on Gavan Hill - Sitka, AK

I have been a member of Sitka Mountain Rescue. The life of a search and rescue person can be quite interesting. Below is another of Dave's experiences.

"That's What We Do"

That was the response by Don Kluting, captain of the Sitka

Mountain Rescue Team (SMR) after another successful mission by the SMR

(Sitka, Alaska) and the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard and SMR combined to rescue a 16-year-old girl who had become seriously ill while hiking with a group on the local Gavan Hill trail. She was hoisted by a helicopter off of the heavily wooded slopes of Gavan Hill by the Coast Guard's Air Station Sitka and flown to the airport where Emergency Services personnel were waiting to take her to Sitka Community Hospital. She was released that evening by the hospital.

I am a new addition to SMR and as my first mission, the Gavan Hill 

rescue was an eye-opening experience. I had received a message on my 

pager for volunteers to assemble at the Fire Hall. Teams, gear, and 

directions were already in progress as I stepped into the Fire Hall 

about 20 minutes after the initial page. Being on my first call, I 

wrangled with what I needed to throw into my 24 hour pack. A gear junkie at heart, I had plenty of "stuff" to choose to ride with me on the mountain. Did I pack the right things? Having diabetes causes one to be prepared and to analyze(and over analyze) what to bring on

different outings. I loaded first aid supplies from the Search and Rescue command center(Fire Hall) and was sent out as part of the first team. We arrived with needed medical items and began clearing the 

area for a helicopter rescue.

As the U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter arrived, it began to look like something out of a Hollywood script. Truth was that this was reality and our semi-coherent hiker needed to take the first bird out of there. A litter was dropped and the hiker was hoisted up, loaded into the helicopter and transported to Sitka Community Hospital. Mission accomplished.

As I finally connected with a computer to plunk out a story on the 

incredible helicopter rescue, my pager pulls me from the MacBook and 

into a frenetic shuffle to prepare and fly out the door for the next 

search and rescue mission. A hiker has been injured on Gavan Hill and 

will need to be carried down the mountain. It is a different set of 

circumstances than last week and a litter, litter wheel, a large 

number of volunteers, and good ole muscle power will be needed to see this rescue through. Finesse and rope will also be involved as the hiker is hauled down a rugged, winding trail etched into the Alaskan hillside. This will be the second successful mission in one week and was another eye-opening (in more ways than one)experience.

The SMR is a group of volunteers dedicated to providing wilderness 

safety education to the public, and prompt, professional emergency 

services for people who are lost, injured, stranded, or in need of 

rescue primarily within the City and Borough of Sitka. I have 

diabetes, but my active lifestyle creates a good fit with being a member of the team. I joined the team to help the community, forge new

experiences, and learn whatever I can cram in. Have you considered 

being a part of search and rescue?

Below is a Thank You letter written from the hiker who rode our litter 

taxi service.

Used with the writers permission.

I just want to again thank all the men and women of the Sitka Mountain 

Rescue in assisting me off Gavan Hill last Sunday. I would especially 

like to thank Dave Patt, Nils & Lucie for staying with me and 

convincing me it was not a good idea to come down off the mountain 

without the help of the Rescue team. I tore my ACL and probably have 

damage to the meniscus in my right knee. I know now I would have done

much more damage to the knee and possibly sustained other injuries if 

I had tried to get down on my own. I will have to go through therapy, 

wear a knee brace, and eventually have surgery but it could have been 

much worse. It is a very humbling experience having to ask for help 

and being strapped into a litter to be carried down, but everybody was

the utmost professional. I felt totally safe in their care and their

upbeat attitude made the trip down much more bearable. The Sitka 

Mountain Rescue provides an invaluable service to the community and 

you should all feel proud.

Sincerely and always in your debt,

(name withheld)

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