Lucky to be alive! Alaska Elk

WyoArk

FNG
Joined
Jun 5, 2022
Messages
72
3 days ago I came as close as I ever have to losing my life. I was on the infamous Alaska archery elk hunt. Me and my buddy both trained for 11 months. Not typical training, I mean running two half marathons a week, endless leg days. You get the picture. I am 40 and he is 36. We both have been at this for many years.

Our gear was dialed. Looking back at our load out, it was perfect. We had all the things. I wouldn’t change a thing. We were good for 14 days easily. We probably could have stretched it out to 17 or 18.

The only sunlight we saw, was the day we arrived. We’re were able to establish our base camp above the very formidable jungle. Had a seek outside hot tent and a seek titanium wood stove, so we just dug in.

It rained for a solid 4 days and 5 nights.We sat in the tent and played it safe. Heavy rain and zero visibility above the alpine. We knew better than to make a big maneuver in that crap. No visibility at all.

Day 5, the rain breaks in the morning, but the cloud was still stuck on top of the mountain we really wanted to hunt/spot. We opted to throw the Katoola’s on and head to the highest vantage point we could glass and not be fogged out.

It paid off.

I spotted a herd bull and 9 or 10 cows, 2000 feet below us.
Since we couldn’t see the alpine for the fog,We decided that we would try to make a play. We Dont leave elk to find elk! The rain was going to come back in for another 5 or 6 day round, and this was our only chance for who knows how long.

The problem was, that the entire basin was cliffed out. I mean you need repelling equipment or a parachute to get to the valley.

The only way down was 1500 vertical feet over 700 yards. It is straight down an avalanche shoot. This is a jagged Boulder field between two mountains with a raging creek in the bottom.

We had made it to the last 40 yard section of the shoot. The elk are within 200 yards of us by now.
This last 40 yards is extremely technical. This is where it went bad.

I was in the lead, and I lowered myself down a Boulder, and was about to start navigating the next set of boulders.

All of the sudden, I heard my partner yell my name. Too late for me to move. This is microseconds.

I vividly remember seeing something huge and black over my right shoulder.

My feet had solid purchase and my back was square to the boulder.

I squatted under it, and braced for impact.

You have all heard stories of mothers lifting cars off their Children in moments of crisis.

I can’t say that is exactly what happened, but something like that transpired.

I had my stone glacier pack on with my hilleberg nallo, my heavy layers, rain gear and a few other softer items.

When the Boulder hit, it bent me over like a taco. Somehow, and I have no idea how….I kept my footing. I have never felt weight on my back like that before. It flattened my chest into my left knee.

My buddy saw all of this from above. Later he said that he was certain he was watching me die.

The Boulder rolled over my back like a ramp and fell at my feet. I began to scream. I looked down and I was covered in blood.
I was still standing, but I was in a state of shock. Catching my breath was impossible.

Shortly there after, I passed out. My buddy thought that I was bleeding internally. Once again, he thinks I am dying.


While I was out, I remember feeling warm and having a distant memory of working on farm machinery with my little brother. Very weird, but that’s how I remember it.

I was only out for about 30 seconds, but it seemed much longer to me. Then all I knew was that my buddy was yelling my name over the top of me.

I came back to the world. Amazingly, I stood back up.

The blood was from my left arm and my hand. I had caught myself with that arm to brace myself and it had shoved me down and cut me up pretty bad.

Immediately, I knew that I had broken some ribs. It had pushed my bino harness and my 10 mm straight into my ribs. My back was fine, as were my neck, and head. The stone glacier pack sits high on my back and I had my lid on. I was only bleeding from the arm.

Then I look at the Boulder. Guys this thing is as big as a love seat. I would guess it to be in the 800-1000 pound range.

At this point, we are terrified that I could be bleeding internally. We knew we had to get me to medical attention.

Big problem here. We are in the bottom of a v chalice avalanche shoot. The coast guard would never be able to get a chopper in there to get me. The canyon walls are much too steep and the wind is insane.

I looked at my buddy, and I said I don’t know if I can hike out of here. He said “ you have to man, I can’t carry you”.


I didn’t have the balance to climb with my pack on. My amazing hunting partner grabbed both packs, and we took off.

Somehow, we managed to hike the 700 yards back out of the shoot. We got on the inreach and contacted our pilot.

He’s on a parts run out of town, so he gives us search and rescues contact. We can’t add contacts from the bush, so I had to message my wife and have her contact search and rescue.

While all of this is going on, we have to descend another Mile down the mountain. I am really hurting bad by this point. My buddy is scared the plane is going to leave us as the weather is getting bad again. He takes off ahead of me to flag him down.

I am feeling rather confused at this point, and struggling to make sense of things. There are no trails on the island, and I can’t find the tape markers we had in the devils club.


Finally, I find the creek that goes down to the lake. I just jump in, and go up to the waist in it. After a few hundred more yards, I see the wing of a 185 Cessna float plane in the lake.

Search and rescue was able to get us out of there and back to town. Thankfully, the small town has a hospital. I had a bunch of X-rays, a CT scan, and an ultra sound of my organs.

I cracked ribs, broke my ulna, and smashed my hand. I also required quite a few stitches in my left arm.

Guys, I got off extremely light. I didn’t have any internal bleeding, and all of my organs were intact.

I saw the grim reaper 3 days ago in Alaska.

Words can’t describe how close I was to being crushed to death.

Btw, the Boulder hit me so hard that it completely obliterated my stone glacier Krux frame. It’s like carbon shredded wheat.

I was so thankful to see my wife and dog at the airport this morning in Denver. I feel like I am living on borrowed time friends.

I’m cut up, beat up, broken up, and terribly sore……..but I am alive!IMG_0060.pngIMG_0026.jpegIMG_0050.jpegIMG_0059.pngIMG_0048.jpegIMG_2161.jpegIMG_2161.jpeg
 
Last edited:

5MilesBack

"DADDY"
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
15,869
Location
Colorado Springs
You could not pay me enough to elk hunt in Alaska.
I didn't even know Alaska had elk hunting. Hmmmm...........:unsure:.

Btw, the Boulder hit me so hard that it completely obliterated my stone glacier Krux frame. It’s like carbon shredded wheat.
That carbon looks like an arrow shaft, like Kifaru used on some of their frames. I don't believe my SG frame has anything like that in it. It's all flat from what I feel.
 

LoggerDan

WKR
Joined
Jan 8, 2023
Messages
507
Location
AK
That place is a shithole! I’ve logged all around it and been on it a few times, but not too far. Man. That’s definitely a tough hunt and you’re a tough man. ….I used to think about that tag. Not anymore.
 
OP
WyoArk

WyoArk

FNG
Joined
Jun 5, 2022
Messages
72
I lived up in the koyukuk south of the Brooks range for a few years. I “thought” that was rough country.

You boys down in SE AK win. Save for poisonous spiders, venomous snakes, and an active lava flow……….that island has it all. Everything up there is trying to kill you.

I’ve done some tough hunts, but this one was by far the toughest!
 

The Guide

WKR
Joined
Aug 20, 2023
Messages
352
Location
Montana
Quite the adventure. Thanks for sharing it with us. Hope you heal up quickly and don't lose the rest of your season due to injuries.

Jay
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2015
Messages
2,464
Thanks for sharing, glad you are alright.

That had to be the most intense couple hours of your lives.

It's incredible that you had to hike back up and out after that. Was your partner able to pack up your camp?
 
Top