Another one gone


Missing hiker Nick Larsen/National Park Service

One of the last photos taken of 34-year-old Nick Larsen shows him standing on the bridge 238-feet above the raging Kuskulana River 17 miles along the McCarthy Road on the way from the nowhere outpost of Chitina, Alaska into the heart of America’s largest national park.

It is the end of the July, and Alaska is at its warm and friendly best. A merchant seaman from Juneau by way of Portland, he is wearing shorts, a t-shirt and a smile at the start of an adventure into the wilds of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Five days later, Larsen disappeared. He was last seen on Aug. 5 in the old mining town of McCarthy, now a summer tourists outpost. The park service on Tuesday suspended its search for the 6-foot, 5-inch, 190-pound hiker who looks so fit and healthy in the photo.

He joined the many missing in Alaska.

Park service officials describe Larsen as an “experienced hiker” who planned to do some solo backpacking in the park. Such adventures are not uncommon.

When Larsen was reporting missing somewhere in the park at mid-month, park rangers were faced with the classic problem of where to look. Days of pretty hopeless searching followed as rangers surveyed dense spruce forest, big glacial rivers that can easily swallow a man, and the craggy Wrangell Mountains.

Ranger Jamie Hart said the obvious hiking routes around McCarthy were checked:

No sign of Larsen was found.  Out of options on where to look, the park service gave up, but an investigation into Larsen’s disappearance is continuing.

Hart said the agency is hoping for help from anyone who might have seen Larsen. They’ve asked people to share Larsen’s photo in the hopes there might be someone out there who saw him in the park and might have more information on where.

They describe Larsen has having brown hair, hazel eyes and a distinctive, brightly colored “sleeve” tattoo covering his right arm from shoulder to wrist.

He was reported to be wearing a dark green, long-sleeved shirt and black pants when last seen. He was known to be carrying a tan, REI, Half Dome, two-person tent in a 30- to 40-liter Osprey backpack or light blue REI Flash day pack.

Any information on Larsen can be phoned in toll-free to the NPS Tip Hotline at 1-800-478-2724.

Park officials are also asking that hikers and backpackers file a backcountry itinerary and leave it with a responsible party before setting off into the wilderness. Forms are available at park contact stations. A description of the trip, the planned route, any anticipated bailout routes in case of problems or bad weather, and an expected return time can help narrow the search area and increase the odds of rescue if anything goes wrong.

Though it is only late August, fall is already fast approaching in the massive park that butts up against the Canadian border in east central Alaska. Night time temperatures have been dropping down around 40 degrees. Fresh snow has already dusted the mountains that tower above the glaciers and the silt-laden rivers that drain south and west out of the rugged mountains to the Gulf of Alaska.

It is possible Larsen is still alive out there somewhere hanging on. Alaska is a land of amazing survival stories, but they are rare.

Few emerge from the wilderness after going missing for weeks, and some are never found.








9 replies »

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  2. I read the two articles about Larsen. No mention of who thinks he is lost. Family? Close friends? Could he have finished his hiking trip and left the area? And the Park Service was not notified of this? It wouldn’t be the first time a search was done for someone that was “lost”, only to find the search was triggered due to lack of communication and the person had left the area before the search began.

    • family reported it. there has been no contact with family since. should be in the story. my mistake. i’ll fix.

      there are possibilities other than lost, of course. we have had people willingly disappear into the Alaska wilderness. some people could try to do something like this as part of a plan to disappear. one can never fully rule out foul play.

      but it appears – appears – he just went on a hike and never came back.

  3. Give the man some time–that area is not all that big. *If he has a packraft he can cover it all including the Nazina, goat trail, White River and many more. If he doesn’t have a packraft he is not going to get very far out of McCarthy. .

  4. Having lived in Alaska’s far north for decades I can attest to your words that, “It is possible Larsen is still alive out there somewhere hanging on. Alaska is a land of amazing survival stories, but they are rare.” Even during my time as a guide I found myself at times turned around while hunting in the wilderness and understand how a visitor to our land could easily become disoriented and lost. Alaska is a land of vast wilderness with few trails and planning is essential for anyone heading into the back country. I do find it odd that he did not leave any information on his route or where he was going.

    • You can bet that Mr. Larsen (if he is alive) is rethinking his plan of keeping his route to himself. It’s by far the exception that something life threatening occurs to most wilderness hikers but Larsen appears to have gotten a first-hand introduction to this exception.
      We all hope he is found and his story may encourage others to file some sort of notice to where they are headed.

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