Paul Schoch, 09-18-07

Search for hiker broadens

Published: September 20, 2007

WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS -- Officials at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve are expanding their search for a missing hiker.

Paul Shoch, a 68-year-old Wisconsin man, did not show up when weather permitted an airplane to pick him up Monday, a day later than planned.

A ground and aerial search was started, involving a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter.

Officials report Shoch's tent, food and other equipment were found near the airstrip, but there's been no sign of the missing hiker.

Shoch was dropped off Sept. 12 at Skolai Pass.

The Associated Press

Ground and air searchers keep looking for missing Wisconsin hiker


Published: September 22, 2007

WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS -- The search for a missing Wisconsin man in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve continues.

Park officials say 24 searchers were on the ground Friday looking for Paul Schoch of Lake Nebagamon, Wis.

The ground crew is being aided by a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. Stormy weather is hampering the air search at times.

Schoch was reported missing Monday by a pilot who was supposed to have picked him up at Skolai Pass after a three-day hike.

Park officials say Schoch is reportedly an experienced hiker, both in the Lower 48 and in the Alaska wilderness.

The 13 million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is America's largest. It's located about 200 miles east of Anchorage.

The Associated Press

Missing hiker has few supplies, officials say

The Associated Press

Published: September 24, 2007

WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS -- Ground and aerial searchers continue to look for a missing Wisconsin man in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Twenty-four ground searchers spent a fourth night near Russell Glacier at the 4,500-foot level. But they have failed to find 68-year-old Paul Schoch of Lake Nebagamon, Wis., who was reported missing Sept. 17.

Searchers have combed an area around the glacier where footprints that could be Schoch's were tracked Friday over soft soil to where they disappeared along the top of a moraine. Searchers also are covering other areas.

Park officials say Schoch's base camp was found intact early in the search, with most of his provisions there.

Search for hiker called off
SOLO: Missing Wisconsin man left behind his campsite and medications.


Published: September 25, 2007

Before 68-year-old Paul Schoch of Wisconsin disappeared into the wild, his wife tried to talk him out of making a solo trip into the high country of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Schoch wouldn't budge. The lure of Alaska's backcountry was too strong.

On Monday, 12 days after he was dropped off at Skolai Pass and seven days after he was reported missing, the National Park Service ended a week-long search for Schoch.

He joins a long list of people who have gone missing in untamed Alaska over the years, including four others in just the last two weeks.

Park officials believe Schoch left his campsite for a day hike, possibly to take pictures of dramatic scenes of crevasses at Russell Glacier, a favorite spot for amateur photographers like Schoch.

Left behind were his tent, sleeping bag, cook stove, food -- and medicine he had been taking daily for diabetes, high blood pressure and a thyroid condition, according to park service spokesman Smitty Parratt.

His wife, Carol, said she doesn't expect to see her husband of 44 years again.

"At this point, it has been so long," she said from the couple's home in Brule, Wis. "It would be wonderful, but, you know, it just doesn't seem feasible. As much as I hate to say it."

The search ended Monday morning, partly because Schoch had been without food and shelter for so long, and partly because winter is descending in the country's largest national park.

As of late Monday, about 20 searchers were hunkered down at a base camp they'd set up at Skolai Pass, not far from Schoch's camp.

Falling and drifting snow restricted access to the 4,500-foot pass, Parratt said. The searchers have a couple days' worth of food and are not considered endangered, he said.

Schoch is the first person to disappear in Wrangell-St. Elias since 2004. That year, 28-year-old climber Jason Harper vanished during an attempted solo ascent of Mount Sanford. He's listed as one of nine fatalities in the park since 1993, park service spokesman John Quinley said.

Carol Schoch described her husband as an avid hiker and photographer with a deep love of the outdoors -- especially Alaska.

"When we got married, he said his only regret was that he had not been to Alaska yet," she said. "It took us 39 years to get there the first time."

The couple came here in a camper five years ago and explored the state for seven weeks. Their trip included a visit to Prudhoe Bay, "because one of the things he wanted to see was the Arctic Ocean, because someone told him the water in the Arctic Ocean is fresh water, not salt," Schoch said.

"They were right," she said. "It's not salty."

Her husband returned to Alaska this summer when one of their four children, daughter Audrey, got a job at a fly-in fishing lodge. After getting Audrey to her new job, Paul flew home. He returned in mid-August to retrieve his truck and explore more of the state.

He camped in Denali National Park and considered a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, but decided he got enough wildlife shots in Denali. He turned his thoughts to Wrangell-St. Elias and the area around Skolai Pass, where glaciers and mountains offer spectacular photographic opportunities.

"It's a popular base camp location and there's a lot of interesting things to see from there. It's a good spot for someone who's doing some photography," said Greg Fensterman, a backcountry guide for Trek Alaska. "It's a fairly benign area, but when you're up there on your own, anything can happen."

Mid-September is moderately late in the season, Fensterman said. Wrangell Mountain Air tried to discourage Schoch from going alone so late in the year, chief pilot Kelly Bay said. The air taxi suggested he join some other campers going to Glacier Creek, but Schoch insisted on Skolai, Bay said.

Wrangell Mountain Air was unable to land on Schoch's planned pick-up day because of bad weather. The next day, a pilot landed and found no sign of Schoch. The air taxi began a search and alerted park officials, Parratt said.

Park officials used fixed-wing planes, helicopters and more than two dozen people to search a 6,700-acre area, Parratt said. They think Schoch went for a hike after his first night at Skolai Pass intending to return soon, but never did.

"The tent door was open as if he wasn't planning on being gone for long," Parratt said. "The vast majority of the food was there. There was only a little oatmeal and a couple energy bars gone from the food container. That suggests maybe a breakfast and a couple power bars."

Carol Schoch said her husband has camped alone before in remote places.

"He likes being by himself," she said. "Yes, there was concern, but it wasn't pushed, because we knew this was what he wanted."

Jim Antonson, a friend from Solon Springs, Wis., said Schoch was physically fit. He was a brown belt in karate and helped maintain trails for the North Country Trail Association, a multi-state organization.

Schoch's friend and wife both said he was eager to return to Alaska.

"There's just a certain aura about Alaska, I think," Carol Schoch said. "And I think a lot of people have it."

Find Beth Bragg online at or call 257-4309.

Vanished in Alaska's outdoors

In the last two weeks, five people have gone missing in outdoor Alaska and searches for them have been suspended:

• Paul Schoch, 68, Brule, Wis. (Sept. 18). Missing from base camp in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

• Al Kegler, 58, Juneau (Sept. 19). Tossed into the sea when a swimming dog tried to get back onto his skiff while Kegler was crossing a sandbar near Lincoln Island in southeast Alaska.

• Jeremy Miller, 35, and Ted Miller, 31, both of Wrangell (Sept. 18). Failed to return from boating trip on Stikine River in Southeast. Boat was found overturned and the body of a companion, Danielle Miller, was found near Gray's Island.

• Gilbert Ungoot, 43, Gambell (Sept. 9). Last seen driving his four-wheeler in Gambell; alcohol is believed to be involved.

Source: Alaska State Troopers