ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Washington teenager was on the phone with her mother as she hiked alone on a mountain in Alaska, saying she was nervous about the slippery terrain before her mother heard a scream, and then silence. The 18-year-old had fallen 30 feet from a cliff.
The mother, Shelly LaGrou, said Tuesday that she waited, roughly 1,500 miles away in Omak, Washington, to hear her daughter’s voice again.
“I’m still living it,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Daughter Cherelle LaGrou, who is working in Alaska this summer, came back on the phone after a while, saying she had slipped down the slope and couldn’t climb back up. She was hysterical and crying, telling her mother she wasn’t ready to die.
Shelly LaGrou tried to keep her daughter calm Sunday while her husband frantically called the teen’s employer, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, which alerted Alaska State Troopers. That call set in motion a dramatic 45-minute rescue near Denali National Park that was captured by the National Geographic Channel reality show “Alaska State Troopers.” It’s expected to air this fall.
The teen said that before her rescue, she believed she was staring death in the face and thought about everything she would miss in her life.
Instead, she sustained only minor scratches.
“It feels like it was something out of a movie,” she said, laughing when reminded that in a way, it was. “It was all just so unreal that it was actually happening.”
Shelly and Cherelle LaGrou were talking for about 15 minutes before the teen fell from a ridge atop Fox Creek. The mother suggested Cherelle tuck her phone away to free both hands. The teenager did that, listening to her mother with a headset.
She told her mother she had reached the edge of the mountain and didn’t know what to do. Then came the scream.
When the teen came back on the phone, she was hysterical and said her feet kept slipping. In that position, there was no way she could have called for help herself, Cherelle LaGrou said.
Mother and daughter prayed together that angels would hold the teenager against the wall of the mountain.
Soon after troopers arrived, Cherelle LaGrou’s phone went dead. After the teen was safely on the ground, officials called her parents.
While she waited to hear from rescuers, Shelly LaGrou didn’t know they had secured her daughter with a rope. All she knew was that her daughter had been getting weary of trying to hold on.
“I knew that just one wrong slip any second, and I’d be hearing her scream again and she’d be gone,” she said.