Hiker died after fall in Unalaska, say police

Feb 11, 2015

KUCB: Hiker appears to have fallen down an icy slope near start of popular hiking trail.

Pyramid Peak trail
Credit Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB

KUCB:  Unalaska police have recovered the body of a hiker who went missing on a remote trail this past weekend. 

Jessica Acker, 33, is believed to have left for a hike in the Pyramid Valley area on Sunday. Heavy snow and wind set in that afternoon.

It persisted on Monday, as search party made up of local police, Coast Guard and civilian volunteers spent more than 12 hours looking for the missing woman.

Acker appears to have taken a bad fall down an icy slope about 30 minutes off the trail. Police chief Jamie Sunderland says there were clear signs of trauma:

"It does appear from the evidence at the scene that this apparent fall was a major factor in her death," he says.

A search team spotted Acker on Monday, but couldn’t retrieve her body or confirm her identity due to rough weather. And conditions were still treacherous when they returned Tuesday morning:

"Our crew that was up there described it as very icy under the snow," Sunderland says. "Just to safely go up above where we located her and try to look for clues was quite hazardous due to the conditions." 

Pyramid Valley is a popular recreation area, with miles of hiking trails and next to no cell service. It’s near Westward Seafoods, where Acker worked as a seasonal fisheries observer.

She was a groundfish technician with the state Department of Fish & Game in Sitka during the rest of the year and had previously lived in Anchorage. 

But Sunderland says she had spent a few fishing seasons in Unalaska before.

"From the descriptions of family and friends, she had really traversed a lot of our island out here on foot, and she certainly had the gear on for a day hike," he says. "Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like she really notified anybody where she was going and when to expect her back, and, unfortunately, was also by herself."

Several days before she went missing, Acker had reportedly told a friend that she wanted to check out an area near the Icy Creek reservoir in Pyramid Valley.

Rescuers traveled out to that spot on foot and by snowmachine to bring Acker back to Unalaska. Police have been in touch with her family in Wisconsin. Her body is will be sent to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Hiking accidents are rare in Unalaska. The last one was two decades ago on Pyramid Peak, which rises 2,300 feet above the valley where Acker was found. A 19-year-old Coast Guard sailor, Steven McGill, went for a hike there with a shipmate during a port call in Unalaska. McGill fell from a cliff high up on the mountain, and suffered fatal injuries.