Man from Mexico rescued from Mount Juneau ledge

Posted: Tuesday, July 23, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- A man from Mexico was rescued from a ledge on Mount Juneau early Sunday morning.

Angel Varela sustained a fractured right leg and other injuries when he tumbled about 60 feet down the mountain at around 7 p.m. Saturday, according to Capital City Fire and Rescue.

Varela, visiting Juneau from Encinada, Mexico, went for a hike late Saturday afternoon and was chased by a bear, according to police. He slipped, slid down the mountain and lost consciousness when he landed on a rock ledge in a stream running off the mountain.

He awoke sometime around 11 p.m. and began screaming for help. Several residents from the Highlands neighborhood called police when they heard Varela.

Juneau Mountain Rescue, Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search, Capital City Fire and Rescue and Alaska State Troopers rushed to the scene and began a search and rescue.

Juneau Mountain Rescue member Steve Handy said rescuers had trouble finding Varela.

''He was in this rock chasm made by a stream coming down Mount Juneau,'' Handy said. ''But because of the rock his voice was echoing just everywhere.''

Handy said the team had a general idea Varela was in a stream 900 feet up the mountain. Mountain rescuer Doug Wessen said the area is basically a mud slide or avalanche chute.

''We knew we were heading in the right direction because the screams were getting closer,'' Handy said.

It took about three hours to locate Varela and about four to get him off the mountain.

Handy approached Varela from below, and when he was within 25 feet of Varela, realized the danger of the man's situation.

''It was sheer rock face as far as I could see going straight up into the fog,'' he said. ''I couldn't believe how lucky this guy was. On one side was rock face and on the right side a sheer rock cliff darn near 90 degrees and just vegetation. There was no way he was getting out of there without us.''

Team members Wessen and Tim Arness located the man with Handy's help. They set up a rope system from the most stable rock and lowered a harness. They gently helped him into a harness, not knowing the extent of his injuries.

Varela was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital where he was treated and released by Sunday evening.

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