Alaska State Troopers in the Mat-Su Valley were notified that a lone hiker on Pioneer Ridge Trail was in need of assistance on June 15, 2021, at approximately 0129 hours. An adult female hiker, Fina Kiefer age 55 of Palmer, had contacted her husband asking for help after being charged by multiple bears and discharging bear spray.
Shortly after requesting assistance, Kiefer stopped responding to phone calls and text messages. Alaska State Troopers responded to the trailhead and conducted a hasty search of the first section of the trail with no results. The Rescue Coordination Center was contacted to coordinate an aerial search.
Beginning that morning (June 15, 2021) the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center deployed a rescue team that has flown the trail and immediate area multiple times throughout the day. In addition to the aerial search volunteers with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Solstice Search and Rescue Dogs, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, and MATSAR have been searching the area from the ground using K9s. Search efforts are ongoing.
Update 6/16 0930: Search efforts continued for Fina Kiefer on the Pioneer Ridge Trail. Volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, Alaska Solstice Search Dogs, and MATSAR conducted ground searches until approximately 2230 hours on 6/15. The Alaska Air National Guard conducted aerial searches throughout the night, and the Alaska Army National Guard is providing aerial search assets to assist today. Ground search teams will continue to use K9s along the upper and lower portions of the Pioneer Peak area. Updates to follow.
Update 6/16 1635: Search efforts continued throughout the day for Kiefer in the Pioneer Ridge Trail area with volunteer search teams from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, Alaska Solstice Search Dogs, and MATSAR. Partners from the Alaska National Guard provided aerial search assets that assisted ground searchers throughout the day in the area. No evidence of the missing hiker has been discovered. Search efforts are ending for the day due to deteriorating weather in the area. The Alaska State Troopers and our search partners will assess further search efforts tomorrow morning.
Update 6/16 1805: At approximately 1730 hours, the Alaska State Troopers were notified by a volunteer SAR member departing the search area that Fina Kiefer walked out of the woods as they were driving by on Knik River Road, about a mile from the trailhead. Kiefer had injuries and EMS transported her to a Mat-Su area hospital for evaluation.
Kiefer’s remarkable efforts to survive have gone viral. She is very happy to be home with her family.
Thank you to all the searchers and rescue efforts who responded to this mission.