An air and ground search is under way in Denali National Park and Preserve for two backpackers missing in the Savage River drainage.
The two, 25-year-old Abby Flantz of Craylord, Minnesota, and 23-year-old Erica Nelson from Las Vegas, were scheduled to come out of the backcountry on Friday, June 13. The two were last seen on Thursday, June 12, at the Savage River Check Station. They had obtained their wilderness permit earlier that day, and their planned itinerary was to do a one night backpacking trip.
The National Park Service was notified that they were overdue on Saturday, June 14 when they failed to report for work at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.
The search was being focused on the Savage River drainage north of the Denali Park Road, the most likely route that the pair would have utilized to access the Mount Healy wilderness unit they had a permit for. Potential camping areas and other travel routes on Mount Healy and in the adjacent Primrose Ridge backcountry unit were also being investigated. Saturday’s air search utilizing two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft yielded no sign of the two women.
Three teams of ground searchers were deployed on Sunday, June 15, to investigate the heavily wooded and vegetated sections within the primary search area that can not be effectively searched with aircraft. The air search is continuing, utilizing the high-altitude Lama helicopter that is based in Talkeetna to support the park’s mountaineering operations and one of the park’s fixed-wing aircraft. Approximately 40 people were committed to Sunday's search effort.
The two women are experienced trail hikers, but have had limited experience with Alaska backcountry conditions. Weather conditions have been mostly typical of the season, with. daytime highs in the 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s.