Rescuers discover pair of skiers stranded on AK glacier for days

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 6:29 AM

The experienced outdoor enthusiasts were in excellent condition after braving ferocious winds and snow by digging a snow cave for shelter.

Rescuers discover pair of skiers stranded on AK glacier for days

Rescuers on Tuesday picked up two skiers who were stranded on an Alaskaglacier for four days.

The experienced outdoor enthusiasts were in excellent condition after braving ferocious winds and snow by digging a snow cave for shelter.

A crack in the weather allowed an AK Air National Guard helicopter to land on Bear Glacier to reach Jennifer Neyman and Christopher Hanna. Rescuers assessed the health of Neyman and Hanna before they were flown to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna.

Hospital spokeswoman Camile Sorenson said Hanna felt so good, he didn't check in. Neyman was being evaluated, she said.

"They had to dig out four feet of snow around the survivors to obtain to them," said Guard Lt. Col. Matt Calabro, thirty-eight, the director of operations for the two hundred-tenth Rescue Squadron, which flies the helicopters.

He said they were in excellent spirits and uninjured.

"Being on the mountain that long, in the cold, in the snow, isolated, we're going to get them to the hospital," Calabro said. "We just wish to create sure they are safe."

An airplane had dropped off Neyman, thirty-six, and Hanna, forty-five, on Friday but couldn't return that night because of horrible weather. Though planning to spend just one day on the glacier, they carried a light tent and two days of provisions, plus communication devices necessary to their rescue.

Powerful wind and snow shredded their tent Saturday. They dug snow shelters but were running out of fuel for their cook stove.

Neyman and Hanna used cellphone calls and satellite text messages to communicate with friends and rescuers. Satellite coordinates indicated the duo were at the 4.300-foot level of the 13-mile-long glacier, one of more than thirty in the Harding Ice Field, the largest ice field entirely within U. S. boundaries.

Powerful winds and low clouds hampered rescue efforts.

"The terrain there is beautiful gnarly," said Calabro, thirty-eight, who also was the helicopter pilot on Monday'south attempt to rescue the two skiers.

"High mountain peaks, clouds, snow, icing and the glaciers, so everything is white-on-white," he said. "It'south love what we call flying in a pingpong ball."

Besides the white-out conditions, there were thirty miles per hour winds with higher guests. "You can only go as distant as you can see, so it'south a really risky environment to fly in," he said.

He attempted to keep a four-man rescue team on the ground Monday when he couldn't land the helicopter. The first attempt, about eight miles from the skiers, was aborted because of enormous crevasses on the glacier, which would've made for risky overland conditions.

The rescue team was eventually lowered to a nearby glacier that doesn't have many crevasses. The team was making the approximate 15-mile hike to the survivors when weather cleared Tuesday.

A Guard helicopter pinpointed the skiers' location Tuesday, and crew members spotted skis believed to label the entrance of a snow cave they dug.

The Guard'south Rescue Coordination Middle had received a satellite text message from the two earlier Tuesday saying they were "OK."

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