He spent 26 hours on the side of Mount Roberts with only a raincoat to shield him from the wind and rain.
New Yorker Andrew Tse took a wrong turn while hiking in Juneau Thursday, slipped on a rock and slid down the mountainside before landing on a small ledge with barely any room to stand. But he also wasn’t able to get himself back to the trail.
Talking to the Empire from his room at Bartlett Regional Hospital, the 26-year-old cruise ship worker for Celebrity Cruise lines recalled his story of being rescued.
He wasn’t badly hurt, “no broken bones, thank God, only a couple of scratches,” he said.
He said had taken the Mount Roberts Tramway up to the trail around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, but going back down, he said he got lost and then stuck when he slid down the mountain.
He called a colleague who informed the cruise ship staff, who in turn called 911. However, due to the stormy weather that day, rescue crews weren’t immediately able to get him off the mountain.
“Unfortunately, the weather conditions were unfavorable,” Tse said. “It was foggy, windy, cold, raining … everything. I had nothing but a raincoat to keep me warm.”
A number of agencies were called in to assist with the rescue. The effort was coordinated by the Alaska State Troopers and involved Juneau Mountain Rescue, Sitka Mountain Rescue, Alaska SEADOGS, the National Weather Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Capital City/Fire Rescue and the Red Cross.
At one point, a Coast Guard helicopter was called in but because of 80-mile-an-hour winds was not able to help. According to a dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers, Tse was able to provide his GPS location using his cellphone. He was located in the area of Snowslide Creek, west of Gastineau Peak at an elevation of about 2,700 feet.
According to Jackie Ebert with Juneau Mountain Rescue, Tse was located about 500 feet below the trail about a mile from the tram.
“There wasn’t much room at all,” Tse said, referring to the ledge. “I stayed up the whole night. Literally my focus was not to fall any further down. The majority of my time at night was making sure I didn’t move too much.”
Ebert told the Empire that an initial JMR crew of two arrived on the scene arrived on the scene at approximately 11 p.m. They decided that they weren’t properly equipped to safely rescue Tse, given the terrain and the weather. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures that night went down to 44 degrees Fahrenheit with gust of wind reaching 28 mph.
Based on the conditions, the JMR team decided that the kind of rope system they would need to safely rescue Tse would require more people, Ebert told the Empire.
The Coast Guard was called in the between 2 and 3 in the morning Friday, and brought with them members of the Sitka Mountain Rescue team.
Eventually, rescue crews were able to reach Tse and attach him to a harness. With the help of rescuers, Tse was able to climb back up to the trail and walk to the tram station. They were able to bring Tse back down using the tram. Goldbelt staff kept the tram running through the night to facilitate the rescue effort, Ebert said.
“At that point they were able to feed me, hydrate me,” Tse said. Rescuers gave him, “a couple of crackers and donuts, things high in sugar and calories, just so my body could get something in its system after not eating for so long.”
Tse was taken directly to Bartlett Regional Hospital where staff checked his vitals. Tse was in stable condition Monday morning, according to Bartlett spokesperson Katie Bausler. Tse said that when he is eventually discharged he’ll meet up with his cruise ship and then make a decision if he wants to continue working or return home to recover.
Speaking with the Empire Monday, Tse sounded calm and thankful his ordeal was over.
“It was scary,” he said, “but it was reassuring at least when I saw (the rescuers). I knew that help was on the way.”
Tse said he was very thankful to JMR and all the agencies that helped to bring him down in the safest way possible.
Capital City Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Travis Meade told the Empire that he was impressed by Tse’s ability to walk himself to the tram after spending the night on the side of the mountain.
“That really helped,” Meade said. If rescuers had had to carry Tse out, “that would’ve prolonged his exposure,” Meade said.
Meade encouraged hikers to always be prepared.
“If you’re hiking in Southeast Alaska, conditions can change quickly,” he said. He urged people to bring extra layers and if they get into trouble, call for help as early as possible.
But most of all, “stay on the trails,” he said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.