A simple slip, a fall and a 25-year-old man whose future was waiting for him is dead in Alaska.
Alaska State Troopers say Danny Dresher, once a seasonal ranger at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve now working as an emergency room technician at Anchorage’s Providence Medical Center while preparing for another park job, died on the slopes of Goat Mountain above the Knik River on Wednesday.
“Danny fell while descending loose, fourth-class terrain,” a friend who was with him when the accident happened posted on his Facebook page. “Danny was a solid and cautious climber about to start a job with Yosemite (National Park) search and rescue, and the terrain this occurred in would seem very commonplace to those who scramble in the Chugach.”
Dresher graduated high school in Santa Monica, Calif. before heading off to the mountains to attend the University of Montana and then working his way north.
His death left many members of the large National Park Service family in the north mourning one of their own. The Alaska operations of the huge federal bureaucracy are largely powered by summer seasonal-employees who manage to find what winter work they can to support their passion for a job in the Alaska wilds in the warmer, sunnier months of the year.
Class 4 terrain is usually described as simple climbing, but with exposure, meaning there can be dangerous, even deadly, consequences in a fall. Experienced climbers generally consider the risks in such terrain small, but the consequences can be large.
Dresher reportedly tumbled 250 to 300 feet down the mountain after slipping.
Where Class 3 terrain ends and Class 4 begins is an often a fine line the Chugach Mountains where a lot of the rock is rotten. Descending in such terrain is invariably more difficult than climbing up through it with foot and handholds visible and the stability of the rock under foot easier to quantify.
In either Class 3 or 4, it doesn’t take much for things to go from good to bad in a blink.
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Lekish, a well-known student athlete and the son of a well-known Anchorage attorney, slipped on The Wedge, a regularly hiked Front Range peak just above the state’s largest city in 1987, and fell to his death.
Dresher’s climbing companion noted the dangers in his post.
“For now, just wanted to say ‘be careful,'” he wrote.
Pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron and helicopter aviators from the 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard were called to rescue Dresher from the slope less than 10 miles northest of the heart of state’s largest city, but could not save him. They did recover his body.
Dresher’s death marks a bad start to an Alaska climbing season only just beginning.