Christine Horan, 62, is co-director of the Sitka Alpine Adventure Run, one of the premiere endurance events in the state. Horan and her husband Charles were inspecting the race route when she startled a brown bear, fell, and broke her hip joint.
Sitka Mountain Rescue was notified of the incident at about 3:45 in the afternoon.
Christine Horan did not actually see the bear she surprised — she only heard it. Sitka Mountain Rescue captain Don Kluting was not so lucky.
“You know, our subject probably startled the bear and it headed on out down the trail and I was headed right for it and came around a corner and boom, there it was, right there on the trail.”
Kluting said his encounter with the bear probably was not much different than Horan’s.
“I think the bear had the startled response and I had the startled response and we all came to a quick stop and it bailed.”
Because of the rugged terrain, a Coast Guard helicopter was unable to land at the scene. Instead, the crew lowered a rescue swimmer to direct a hoist. Once aboard the helicopter, Horan was flown to Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital where she was stabilized. A subsequent medevac transported her to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage for orthopedic surgery to repair her hip.
Kluting says 14 members of Sitka Mountain Rescue were involved in the mission, along with the Sitka Fire Department and EMS. Many of the responders climbed the trail on foot. With sunshine and warm temperatures, Kluting says it was not a bad day’s work.
“You know the best possible scenario was in our favor yesterday, we were able to get the patient stabilized and packaged and transported in the coast guard loader and then transported out relatively quickly.”
Horan’s husband Charles says she is doing well, and is aware of the irony in her situation. The Sitka Alpine Adventure Run will celebrate its twentieth anniversary this year and has never had a major injury.
Charles Horan says that the Gavan Ridge trail is rapidly clearing of snow, and that his wife fell on dry gravel. The race is scheduled for Saturday July, 20, and will take place as planned.
KCAW’s Erik Neumann contributed to this story.