Juneau guiding company investigates client’s fall

JUNEAU, Alaska — A Juneau guiding company said it is investigating a client’s fall during an ice cave tour of the Mendenhall Glacier.

The woman broke her ankle and injured her back while belaying down the glacier Friday in the tour operated by Above and Beyond Alaska. A helicopter flew her off the glacier, the Juneau Empire (http://is.gd/UdVvrv) reported.

Company co-owner Sean Janes said he believes the incident was handled properly, but the company is conducting an internal investigation.

“As far as I can tell, we’ve done everything by the book,” Janes said.

The incident came to the attention of authorities when someone watching from a distance thought a woman had fallen in a crevasse.

The witness called 911. Responders were preparing to rescue the woman but canceled those plans when learning she was not in need of rescue and not in danger. The guiding company informed authorities that it arranged for a helicopter to lift the woman off the glacier after learning someone had called 911.

The woman’s name was not released.

Janes said the fall is the company’s first major accident during a glacier hike in the 13 years it has been operating. The accident was not a result of natural forces, such as an ice cave collapsing or glacial calving, he said.

“It was truly a fall, a human error,” he said.

The woman fell while participating in the company’s “Mendenhall Glacier Trek &Ice Climb” package, Janes said. The package includes trekking across the glacier with crampons, ice climbing with a rope and exploring the ice caves.

The woman was participating with three others and a certified guide. She was being belayed down a wall by the guide on a technical rope system when she fell a short distance, Janes said.

The company holds a U.S. Forest Service permit that allows it to escort clients on the West Glacier Trail and to explore the ice caves.

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