Hiker Dies After Fall Near Trail - Authorities Believe Man Lost His Footing On Scree
By Craig Medred, ADN 04/07/92
A sunny, evening hike that started on a well-traveled trail along Turnagain Arm ended in death for 22-year-old Nathan Chavez on Sunday.
Searchers on Monday found the Anchorage man's body on the Turnagain Arm Trail approximately three-quarters of a mile south of the McHugh Creek wayside. Chavez apparently left the trail to scramble up a sun-kissed slope of loose rock, lost his footing and tumbled 20 to 40 feet to his death.
Chugach State Park Superintendent Ron Crenshaw described the accident as the kind of slip that happens often in the wilderness, but seldom results in death.
"It's happened to all of us to some degree," he said.
This accident was particularly sad because Chavez left a 9-month-old baby and his pregnant wife, Tometria, said Jill Fredston of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.
A hard-working young man, Chavez had been holding down two jobs to support his family.
He was described by co-workers and acquaintances as a moderately experienced and active outdoorsman with a strong interest in backcountry recreation. He'd spent the past year-and-a-half selling outdoor equipment at Recreational Equipment Inc. A considerable portion of his limited free time was given over to scrambling around in the Chugach Mountains near the city.
"He was a hell of a nice guy," said REI manager Kevin House, "hard- working, conscientious, fun. It's got everyone around here freaked out." Chavez was the second REI employee to die in the Chugach Mountains in the past four years. An avalanche at Tincan Mountain in Turnagain Pass killed 35-year-old Todd Frankiewicz in December 1988.
Frankiewicz was gambling on an unstable snow slope when he died. Chavez apparently just ran into bad luck.
"It's one of those things," House said. "Anyone who gets out could have been in the same place."
The accident investigation was not yet complete Monday and an autopsy has yet to be performed, but rescuers said it appeared Chavez slipped and then tumbled.
"It just looks like he fell," said Doug Fesler, Fredston's husband and another member of the mountain rescue group.
Fredston and Fesler were among those who found Chavez's body in the trail about noon, approximately three hours after the search began. The fatal accident hit close to home for them.
"You know, Doug had a near fatal fall five weeks ago," Fredston said. "The line between living and dying is fairly thin."