Stranded on a glacier on the southern Kenai Peninsula since Friday night, two hikers were rescued by crews with the Alaska Air National Guard just after noon Tuesday.
A man and woman who were stranded on a Kenai Peninsula glacier since Friday were finally rescued early Tuesday afternoon and appeared to be in “good condition,” the Alaska National Guard said.
According to a release from the Guard, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter was able to land on Bear Glacier, in the Harding Icefield, at 12:10 p.m.
Christopher Hanna, 45, and Jennifer Neyman, 36, were dropped off on the glacier Friday by an airplane for an outdoor excursion. They were supposed to be picked up that evening, but the weather worsened and the pilot wasn’t able to land.
The two were reported stranded to troopers Saturday and took refuge in a snow cave after their tent was damaged by the storm. Air support from the Alaska National Guard was unavailable until Monday morning because of the storm.
“To kind of give an example, it would be like flying an airplane in a ping-pong ball or a snow globe, with no visibility,” explained National Guard Capt. John Romspert. “So it’s very difficult for the crew to have reference points and even land on the glacier at that time.”
Initial attempts to rescue them were unsuccessful because of the weather, but Tuesday conditions improved and a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter was able to land.
Pararescuemen immediately assessed Hanna and Neyman’s health before transporting them to the Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna. Hanna declined to be treated, and Neyman was released Tuesday afternoon after being checked.
The two were equipped with survival gear and supplies to last them roughly two days, despite only planning to remain in the area for roughly five hours, according to a friend of Hanna. National Guard representatives cited this search and rescue mission as an example of why Alaskans should be prepared for the worst, even on a day trip.
“It is always difficult when there are two isolated people and you just can’t fly out and rescue them right away, but we’re going to continue to do our best and provide all the assets we have available until we bring them home safely,” Romspert said.
Chris Hanna’s close friend, Jim Bristow, was a lifeline for the stranded pair. Hanna and Bristow communicated via satellite messenger, keeping spirits up as they waited for rescue.
“There were some text messages that, I could tell it was bleak out there,” said Bristow.
Bristow had also been in close communication with the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, so he knew when his friends were flown to safety.
“It was a marvelous moment,” he said. “I’m thankful, absolutely glorified of the fact that we’ve got the Air Guard here in Alaska and they were able to get this accomplished.”
Bristow credited Hanna and Neyman’s physical fitness and preparation with their survival.
“When your tent gets shredded and it’s in the rain when you get shredded so you’re wet and cold and you’ve got to dig a snow cave by hand, that’s tough on the psyche but he’s a very proactive, tough cookie,” Bristow said of Hanna.