Two skiers have finally been rescued after being stuck four days on a glacier along the southern coast of Alaska. The pair, Jennifer Neyman and Christopher Hanna, were rescued on Tuesday and are said to be in good condition.
Neyman and Hanna were flown to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna to be evaluated after rescuers aboard the helicopter they were saved in assessed their health. They were still taken to a hospital “just for a check up” despite doing well. A spokeswoman for the hospital said that Hanna felt so good after being rescued that “he didn’t check in. Neyman was being evaluated,” she said.
Neyman, 36, and Hanna, 45, managed to protect themselves from frostbite, high winds. snow, and three freezing nights by digging a snow cave for shelter according to ABC News.
The experienced outdoor enthusiasts became stranded on the glacier due to bad weather. The hikers were dropped off by an airplane close to Harding Ice Field in the Kenai Mountains for a day of hiking and skiing, according to the National Guard. The plane was unable to collect them that night due to “white-on-white” conditions after the weather turned bad.
The pair had with them a light tent and two days of provisions, plus communication devices crucial to their safe rescue. Neyman and Hanna used cellphone calls and satellite text messages to communicate with rescuers so they could pinpoint their location. Satellite coordinates indicated Neyman and Hanna were somewhere on Bear Glacier at an elevation of 4,300-foot level along the 13-mile-long glacier. The glacier they were rescued from after four days is one of more than 30 that make up the Harding Ice Field.
Rescuers had to wait for the weather to clear up before they could fly to a nearby glacier to retrieve the pair and made an unsuccessful attempt on Monday. Low clouds and strong winds hampered rescue efforts and pushed it to four days.
Neyman and Hanna were rescued just in time as they were running out of fuel on their cook stove, their light tent had ripped open and they were getting hidden deeper and deeper by snow. They had planned for just one day on the glacier.
Guard Lt. Col. Matt Calabro, 38, the director of operations for the 210th Rescue Squadron, which flies the helicopters, said, “they had to dig out 4 feet of snow around the survivors to get to them,”
“Being on the mountain that long, in the cold, in the snow, isolated, we are going to take them to the hospital…We just want to make sure they are safe.”
Calabro had attempted to rescue Neyman and Hanna on Monday but the attempt was aborted about eight miles from the skiers because of huge crevasses on the glacier, which would have made for dangerous rescue conditions.
“The terrain there is pretty gnarly,” said Calabro, who also was the helicopter pilot on Monday’s attempt to rescue the two skiers.
“High mountain peaks, clouds, snow, icing and the glaciers, so everything is white-on-white,” he said. “It’s like what we call flying in a ping-pong ball.”
Rescuers returned on Tuesday under clearer skies in an HH-60 Pave Hawk military helicopter and landed on Bear Glacier. They finally reached the hikers after four days stranded on the glacier and dug them out of the snow cave they had created for protection.
Calabro said despite being rescued after four days on the glacier the skiers “were in good spirits and uninjured.” The two skiers were locals from Alaska with experience in outdoor activities and knew what to pack, who to call, and how to protect themselves from the elements. They kept in contact with friends and emergency officials letting them know where they were and how they were doing throughout the four-day ordeal.
The Guard’s Rescue Coordination Center received a satellite text message from Neyman and Hanna earlier Tuesday saying they were “OK.”
[Photo by ESA/Getty Images]