Alaska News

2 skiers stranded on Kenai Peninsula glacier since Friday rescued

UPDATE 10:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY:

The last of the two skiers stranded on a Kenai Peninsula icefield for four days has left Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna.

Jennifer Neyman was treated and released Tuesday, the same day an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter picked up her and Christopher Hanna, the Associated Press reported.

Hanna declined medical treatment at the hospital.

TUESDAY NIGHT STORY:

Two skiers stranded for several days on a Kenai Peninsula icefield were airlifted to safety just past noon Tuesday after an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crew landed nearby during a break in the weather.

Neyman and Hanna, both of Soldotna, had been dropped off on Harding Icefield by an airplane Friday for a day trip hiking and skiing. Bad weather quickly moved in and prevented that airplane and two rescue helicopters from reaching the ice field.

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On Monday, an aircraft dropped supplies for them. Early Tuesday, Guard helicopters found the site on Harding Icefield where Neyman and Hanna had hunkered down and spotted their skis but had to leave to refuel.

Meanwhile, four Alaska Air National Guard rescuers were working their way up the glacier. A helicopter had dropped them off on the icefield Monday and trudged several miles through difficult terrain and harsh weather before bivouacking overnight and continuing Tuesday.

The stranded duo had dug a snow cave to protect themselves from powerful winds and heavy snow after the storm shredded their tent. They sent a text message early Tuesday saying they were still OK.

Neyman, 36, and Hanna, 45, used cellphone and satellite text messages to tell friends they spent the first night in the tent they carried until wind and snow shredded it Saturday. Satellite coordinates indicated Neyman and Hanna were at an elevation of about 4,300 feet on the massive ice field.

"They had to dig out 4 feet of snow around the survivors to get to them," said Guard Lt. Col. Matt Calabro, 38, the director of operations for the 210th Rescue Squadron, which flies the helicopters.

"The terrain there is pretty gnarly," said Calabro, 38, 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. It's like what we call flying in a pingpong ball."

Besides the white-out conditions, there were 30 mph winds with higher gusts. "You can only go as far as you can see, so it's a really dangerous environment to fly in," he said.

Hanna's friend Joe Dilley said he drove to the hospital as soon as he heard that Hanna and Neyman had been airlifted. Dilley spotted Hanna in a hospital waiting room, grabbing a bite to eat. The reunion was emotional for Dilley, he said, but Hanna was in good spirits.

"He had a big ol' ... grin on his face," Dilley said.

They spoke for a short time before Hanna told Dilley he needed to return to Neyman, who was stable but still receiving treatment.

Dilley said if he were in a similar situation in the wilderness, he'd want Hanna in his corner.

"I was very worried, but I had no doubt about Chris' ability," he said.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Correction: This story originally stated that Alaska National Guard rescuers had parachuted onto the glacier. They were dropped off by helicopter.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.

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