Early Sunday evening, Sitka Mountain Rescue received word of an injured hiker on the Mt. Verstovia trail. Gregory Raschick of Sitka injured his knee at 1600 feet, while descending the mountain with a group of family and friends. Raschick is a longtime volunteer for Sitka Mountain Rescue, so he knew exactly what to do. Lance Ewers is a volunteer captain for the Sitka Fire Department, in charge of search and rescue.
“He knew immediately what happened to his knee and that there was no way he was going to be able to get down and off the mountain without help,” said Ewers. “So he called the search and rescue team, and we started putting together the volunteers and formulating a plan of how we were going to get him down off that mountain.”
Because of Raschick’s high elevation, the team initially planned to have the Coast Guard airlift him out, but the rescue did not meet the Coast Guard’s criteria. So Ewer’s team had to go with their second plan, hiking up the mountain to retrieve Raschick on foot using a litter wheel, essentially an ATV tire attached to a cot with four handlebars. Over the course of 9 hours, rescuers carefully brought Raschick down the mountain, belaying the cot through the steepest sections.
“It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing, it wasn’t that cold outside. It could have been a lot worse, but that Verstovia Trail, for anybody who has ever hiked that trail, if you could imagine carrying a full grown adult off of that trail 20 minutes from the top, you can imagine how difficult that descent would be,” Ewers said.
Ewers says the rescue ended at 3 a.m. on Monday. Raschick was transported to Sitka Community Hospital to receive treatment.