Search underway for Ketchikan hiker

A search is underway for a 22-year-old hiker in Ketchikan who was last seen Wednesday struggling to descend a mountain, possibly under the influence of alcohol.

Alaska State Troopers said Justin Nathan summited Deer Mountain — a 3,000-foot mountain about a 30-minute walk from downtown Ketchikan — with a 17-year-old friend Wednesday. He was having difficulty with the steep descent, and the friend left to go get help.

“It was reported to us that Nathan had been consuming alcohol while hiking,” Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters told the Empire by email. “The 17 year old described Nathan as being intoxicated and having trouble with his footing on the descent.”

The 17 year old contacted Nathan’s family, who alerted Troopers at about 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. Troopers and local volunteers with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad have been searching for him since. On Friday, a helicopter joined the search.

“The searchers are very good at what they do and we are fortunate to have them assisting,” Peters said. “Some of the terrain we are searching is very steep (there are also cliffs). The searchers have had to repel down some areas to look.”

Nathan’s family is also assisting in the search. Peters said they are searching roadways at the bottom of the mountain, in case he made it down.

Troopers said Nathan was last seen wearing jeans and a hoodie. He might have also had a rain jacket shell.

Deer Mountain is a popular trail that’s about three-and-a-half miles long and begins at about 500 feet in elevation. It has steep switchbacks and “even steeper areas and cliffs,” Peters said.

The search for Nathan marks the fourth search and rescue effort in Southeast Alaska in a week’s span.

On Monday, a 54-year-old Juneau resident hunting in Hoonah, Loren Cummins, was reported missing. He was found with minor injuries the next morning following a search by Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Hoonah police and fire departments.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, Troopers received a report of a lost 17-year-old boy who was hunting with two other people on Zarembo Island, approximately 13 miles west of Wrangell, who got separated from the group. The teenager was able to call for help on his cell phone, and Troopers obtained his GPS coordinates and chartered a helicopter from Petersburg to respond. The two other members of the hunting party located him before the helicopter’s arrival, and they all returned safely.

On Friday, Nov. 6, an overdue hunter was reported in the Granite Creek area of Sitka. Sitka resident Byron Kashevarof, 31, was located after a hasty search by Sitka Mountain Rescue, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Sitka Police Department, and he was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

“It seems that whenever the seasons changes and hunters are out, we get search and rescues,” Troopers spokeswoman Peters said. “That happens in every part of the state.”

She recommended hikers and hunters take emergency overnight gear with them to keep them safe from the elements, as well as a fully-charged cell phone or emergency communication device, should they become lost or stranded.

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