It was a frigid, lonely night for Em the Whitehorse pooch.
During a camping trip with her owner up a mountain near Haines Junction, Yukon, on Monday, Em escaped from her leash and somehow found herself stuck on a steep, rocky cliff, 60 metres high.
"The dog saw a ram and took off," said Ryan Gustafson, operator of Mount Logan Lodge in Alsek Valley, who was with Em's owner from the beginning of the rescue efforts. The owner had approached him Monday and asked for help.
Gustafson says Em was stuck on the cliff for two days, in below zero weather, with no food.
"We hiked all night to go back up there and we got to the dog at 11:30 p.m. [Monday] in snowshoes," recalled Gustafson. It's about a five-hour hike up the mountain trail — nicknamed the Tors — to where the rocky cliff was.
The terrain was too steep for both men to attempt, so they camped the night.
A helicopter and some mountain climbers
The next day, Mat Trotter came to the rescue after the owner made some calls around the community.
"I guess I was known within the community as a rock climber," said Trotter, a skilled climber who works with a search and rescue team at Kluane National Park. "From what I understood… the dog was stuck in some fairly technical terrain."
Em's owner contracted a helicopter with Trans North. Trotter and two climbing friends hopped in with very short notice.
"Time wasn't really on our side. It was in the evening we set out for this."
At the scene, Trotter found that Em was indeed in a sticky situation, "just perched up on a little ledge."
"The dog was on a pretty steep slope, and managed to work herself about a third of the way down a steep, rocky buttress about 60 metres high."
Trotter and a friend climbed up the steep chute, and from the top, the friend lowered Trotter down to Em who was looking a bit chilly and hungry but "pretty happy" to see him. Trotter then attached her to a harness and down they went.
On the ground, the frazzled Em was a "bit reluctant" to run back to her owner, waiting down the slope.
"But once she figured out it wasn't quite so steep anymore, she made a pretty quick move over to her owner and they were both very happy," Trotter said.
It was an epic rescue effort for Em, the pooch that somehow got herself stuck on a steep mountain ledge.
"Anybody who is a dog owner could understand that it's tough to put a price tag on a situation like this… where the dog would have just starved and froze," Trotter said.
After the rescuing Em, Trotter says his next challenge will be Mt. Denali in Alaska — known to be the highest peak in North America.