JUNEAU (AP) -- Trapped on a steep, slick mountainside in the gathering dark, two tired hikers from the Lower 48 fell back on an all-purpose safety tool -- the cellular phone -- to trigger what turned out to be a tricky helicopter rescue.
Michael Hetzel of St. Clair Shores, Mich., and Terrance Mulligan of Yonkers, N.Y., were plucked from the southwest face of Mount Juneau on Thursday evening after becoming disoriented and exhausted during a daylong hike, Alaska State Troopers said.
''They were just here for an Alaska vacation,'' said Trooper Sgt. Will Ellis. ''They got the full Alaska experience.''
The two men, both 30 years old, apparently lost the trail as they descended the 3,600-foot mountain less than a mile from downtown Juneau.
In an attempt to link back up with trails farther down the mountain, they found themselves unable to go either up or down. About halfway down, in a rock crevice with an icy waterfall roaring nearby, they reached for the phone.
Ellis said the two did the right thing. While they weren't in any real danger, he said, they could easily have fallen trying to negotiate the slope's loose shale.
''They were physically and psychologically exhausted. It was slippery and wet. I myself was very happy to be off that mountain,'' he said.
The rescue required Ellis to jump out of a hovering helicopter onto a narrow ledge and then lead the two men to safety.
''We had 15 minutes of daylight and we pulled it off,'' Ellis said.
Ellis had help from pilot Gil Howell of Temsco Helicopters, Steve Lewis of the Juneau Mountain Rescue team and Bruce Bowler of the canine rescue team Seadogs.
''Gil had the foresight to remove the side door. Bruce established and secured a landing zone near the head of Perseverance Trail. Steve pinpointed their position on the mountain where they were signaling with a flashlight.''
Ellis said Howell edged the helicopter up to a 4-foot-wide ledge just enough to get one of the skids in.
''Rotors were coming close to the incline,'' Ellis said. ''It was brilliant, brilliant flying.''
Howell himself called the maneuvering ''very demanding.''
Ellis escorted each man in turn to the tiny ledge. By the time Howell was swooping in for the second man, mist was starting to collect on his windshield, obscuring his view.
''Sgt. Ellis came back a little bit lighter in weight and lighter in color,'' Bowler said. ''We put him underneath those guys to catch them, but, when he looked over his right shoulder, he wondered who was going to catch him.''
Hetzel is an analyst with Blue Cross, while Mulligan is an emergency room doctor. They planned to retrieve their gear from a base camp lower on the mountain on Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Ellis said both men had good enough equipment and were in good enough shape to tackle the climb they had planned.
''When they got lost, they found themselves getting into territory that they weren't equipped for,'' Ellis said.
The two men were shaky but grateful for the rescue, Ellis said. The rescue, carried out mostly by volunteers, cost about $600, mostly for helicopter rental, Ellis said.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.