NEWS | June 16, 2021

Missing hiker on Pioneer Peak found her way to a road for help

By Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead and Spc. Grace Nechanicky Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

The Alaska State Troopers reported tonight that a woman who had been missing since about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning after a run-in with bears while hiking, made her way to a road and waved down a driver, a day-and-a-half after she was last heard from.
 
A ground search and rescue volunteer notified the Troopers at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday that as he drove down Knik River Road, Fina Kiefer waved him down for help. She had hiked down the mountain and walked out of the woods about a mile from a trailhead. She was transported to an area hospital for evaluation of her injuries.
 
Kiefer, who was hiking the 13.6 mile Pioneer Peak Trail alone Monday evening, was reported in distress to the Alaska State Troopers early morning June 15 after she communicated with her husband expressing concerns about multiple bears nearby, according to the AST.
 
“She was chased off the trail by bears and couldn’t find it again,” said Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and full-time member of the Alaska Air National Guard. “She had waterproof matches and was able to start a fire last night,” he said.
 
The AST contacted the AK RCC at 4:18 a.m. Tuesday, which tasked the mission to the Alaska Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment for an aerial search. A 207th UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter and crew departed shortly thereafter, and searched in the vicinity of Pioneer Peak Trail and surrounding areas throughout the day. They also dropped off ground search teams with Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and MAT+SAR Search & Rescue at various locations along the trail to aid in the search.
 
The Alaska Air National Guard supported overnight search operations with pararescue personnel and aircrew with the 210th, 211th, and 212th Rescue Squadrons from 11:30 p.m. until approximately 4:30 a.m. in an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and HC-130 Combat King II aircraft. The Army Guard Black Hawk resumed the aerial search again this morning. The joint effort between Air and Army National Guard search and rescue teams and the AK RCC continued for 35 hours, with support from the AK RCC throughout the full length of the mission.
 
Budd shared that Kiefer had seen the helicopters but they couldn’t see her, and noted heavy vegetation.
 
“It’s easy to see and hear an aircraft in the sky, but can be very challenging to spot a person at night under canopy,” said Budd.
 
“Being prepared for the unexpected is critical in the Alaskan outdoors,” said Budd. “What you plan as a day hike can quickly turn into a multi-day ordeal.”
 
Budd said that in addition to carrying bear spray and matches, he recommends brightly colored clothing, a personal locator beacon, and a satellite communications device. A small, portable strobe light for the outdoors can also be effective for bringing attention to your location, but the PLB is key.
 
“Mrs. Kiefer also carried with her an amazing amount of grit and determination to return to her family,” said Budd. “We were so relieved to learn that she was safe.”
The collaborative search effort included the Alaska National Guard, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, MAT+SAR, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol and Alaska Solstice Search Dogs.
 
For additional information and updates visit the Alaska State Trooper dispatch:
https://dailydispatch.dps.alaska.gov/Home/DisplayIncident?incidentNumber=AK21065686