Tracy Shelden, 06-20-03

By ZAZ HOLLANDER, Anchorage Daily News, June 22, 2003

Hiker killed in fall on East Twin Peak

CLIMBERS: Friend attempting to find him has to be rescued.

A Wasilla man died Friday in the Twin Peaks area as he struck out alone to scout a route out of a tough spot for fellow hikers, including his 11-year-old son.

Rescuers found the body of Tracy Shelden, 33, late Friday night.

Shelden and his son left with Stefan Hinman, Mike Majors and Majors' 12-year-old daughter on a traverse from the Eklutna Power House on the Old Glenn Highway to Eklutna Lake, via Twin Peaks.

The group left at 5:30 a.m. for what they expected to be a 20-hour trip, Majors said by phone Saturday from Shelden's home.

As they ascended the north face of East Twin Peak on Friday evening, the weather soured. Fog descended as they threaded up gullies, trying to avoid rock faces, Majors said.

"Right before summiting, it got pretty steep, so Tracy went up to see if it did run into a rock face or not," he said. "He went over the summit ridge just east of the true summit."

Majors, 45, said he had climbed for years but the other two adults had little experience in the mountains. Both kids, however, had climbed "lots of peaks," including nearby Pioneer Peak, a daunting 6,300-footer, he said.

A few weeks earlier, the five hiked up from the lake to the steep summit of East Twin Peak.

When Shelden didn't return within an hour or so, the adults called 911 at 6:45 p.m. The Alaska State Troopers helicopter arrived by 8:30 p.m., joined by a dozen members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, according to troopers Sgt. Mark Ridling.

Rescuers found Hinman and the two kids near 4,700 feet in a bowl between the peaks, Ridling said. They were wet and cold but unhurt.

Majors wasn't there; he'd left to find Shelden and was about halfway up a steep, snowy gully when he heard the sound of the helicopter.

After dropping off the trio and picking up more rescue climbers, the helicopter returned and recovered Shelden's body, Ridling said. He had come to rest below a 300-foot cliff about 800 feet from the summit ridge.

Meanwhile, Majors was trapped in the chute 1,000 feet above the bowl, Ridling said. It took rescuers 21/2 hours to reach him and six hours to bring him down, he said. The operation ended around 9 a.m. Saturday.

Majors said he went looking for Shelden because he just couldn't stay behind and wait.

"His son gave me that look, and I had to go look for him," he said.

A 21-year-old Michigan hiker died in a fall at nearly the same spot in July 1998. Philip Fedewa plunged 500 feet to his death that year while attempting to free-climb the same face.

Rescuers remembered that mission as they helped bring the hikers out Friday night and Saturday morning, Ridling said.

"The body was located within a few hundred feet" of the previous fatality, he said.

Daily News reporter Zaz Hollander can be reached at