A Deaf Woman Fell 700 Feet While Hiking, But When Help Arrived She Wasn’t Alone

When Amelia Milling set off on a solo hike in Alaska, she probably never expected to face the emergency situation in which she was to find herself. The trekking student slipped – then plunged down the side of an icy Alaskan mountain, and she thought she was all alone. By the time rescuers arrived, though, she wasn’t alone at all.

Milling hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee, but lives in Rochester, New York, where she reads visual media at the city’s Institute of Technology. And by the time her summer break rolled around in June 2018, the 21-year-old student – who is hearing-impaired – had the perfect getaway planned.

She would travel all the way to Alaska to trek along Crow Pass – a 23-mile pathway that used to be part of the historic Iditarod Trail used by Alaskan natives and pioneers. And although the route is not regarded as the most arduous of its kind – at least after the first three uphill miles – there are, nonetheless, some ever-present dangers.

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For starters, bears roam the area, and indeed, hikers often see the predatory animals while traversing Crow Pass. On top of that, the trail can remain snowy year-round, which makes some of its steeper sections treacherous without the help of a walking pole.

In addition, Crow Pass is home to glaciers, which hikers can reach on foot. And walking over the ice is a huge risk, as snowfalls cover the glaciers’ cracks and crevasses. An unsuspecting hiker could, then, easily fall into one of these fissures and have no way out.

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So, Milling prepared accordingly. She brought along a pair of walking sticks to help her negotiate any snowy stretches. Plus, she had a GPS device, which she could use to send her location to the emergency services should she be in need of rescue.

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But in spite of Milling’s precautionary measures, her mid-June hike quickly presented her with challenges. Only four miles into her trek up steep slopes and through snowy patches, both of her walking poles snapped. Then not long afterwards, she made a costly misstep.

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Costly indeed. You see, that one wrong move sent Milling plummeting nigh-on 300 feet down a snow-covered mountainside. The hiker subsequently crashed into a boulder, and then she fell further – between 300 and 400 feet – at which point she came to rest in a grassy patch. The 21-year-old was, unsurprisingly, bloodied and bruised; indeed, it’s a wonder things didn’t turn out worse.

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And Milling’s trials weren’t over, either. As she lay on the soft patch of green, the stricken hiker saw something that likely made her even more concerned for her safety. Why? Because, as she later told TV station ABC News, the creature approaching her appeared to be a white wolf.

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Then, however, Milling noticed something. “I saw the little collar and realized he was there to help me,” she recalled. The animal was not a wolf – but rather a white husky named Nanook. You see, the trail guide dog roams Crow Pass helping lost hikers find their way again.

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What’s more, Nanook – known to his loved ones as “Nookie” – stuck by Milling’s side after her fall. And he also used his ingrained knowledge of Crow Pass to lead and escort her back to the trail. Indeed, even when she started pitching her tent for the night, the husky remained with her.

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The hiker was actually ready to let Nookie sleep inside her tent for the night, but he lay down in front of it instead. By morning, then, she figured that he’d be gone, but that wasn’t the case. “When I opened up the tent, he was ready to go,” Milling later told news station CBC North.

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The 21-year-old also revealed that the dog’s presence provided a push for her to continue her hike even after her dramatic fall. “He was just right there, and that helped me to have some motivation to keep going,” Milling told ABC News. Soon, however, she would have another brush with danger.

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This second scare happened once Milling and Nookie had reached the Eagle River crossing. A glacier is the river’s source, which means the water is ice-cold. Plus, the current rushes past at a serious pace. And yet the 21-year-old hiker would have to make her way across the river.

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Milling actually made two attempts to continue onward, but she couldn’t traverse Eagle River. And the second time around, she succumbed to the strong current, losing her footing, which left her stuck in the icy waters for about 15 minutes.

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Once again, though, Milling’s canine hero came to the rescue. “Nookie came and grabbed the shoulder strap of my backpack and actually pulled it out,” the hiker told ABC News. Not only that, but the husky dragged Milling herself back to dry land, where she hopped into her sleeping bag to keep her body temperature up.

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Reflecting on this turn of events, Milling’s mom, Sharon Milling, told KTYX-TV, “She thought she was going to lie there until she recovered, and then she would sit up and kind of gauge where she was at. She just wasn’t recovering [though]. [But] the dog kept licking her.”

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This time, however, Milling would need more than just Nookie’s help. After all, she was hurt and hypothermic – and so she pressed the SOS button on her GPS device so that emergency responders could come to her rescue.

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Alaska State Trooper Lt. Eric Olsen told TV network KTVA that when the emergency helicopter had arrived, he hadn’t seen any movement from Milling’s sleeping bag, which immediately worried him. Yet it turned out that the deaf hiker simply couldn’t hear the craft landing. More importantly, though, she was going to be okay. And she would later thank Nookie for saving her life.

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After the world then heard about Nookie’s heroics, his owner, Scott Swift, revealed that his trail dog had previously saved several other hikers and interacted with dozens more. But Swift said that it’s simply in the husky’s nature. “I swear he just looks for cars that go by and runs up after them and goes on an adventure,” he told KTVA.

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