ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Searchers on Monday hoped to find two skiers who have been stuck on an Alaska glacier for three days and were forced to dig snow caves after ferocious wind and heavy snow shredded their tent.
An Alaska Air National Guard helicopter found an opening in a snowstorm above where the hikers are believed to have taken refuge in snow caves on Bear Glacier. The rescue team was hiking down to the skiers, believed to be at the 4,300-foot level of the glacier.
The rescue team was battling blowing snow and winds up to 30 knots, said Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton. Those same conditions were keeping the helicopter grounded at the base of the glacier.
Jennifer Neyman, 36, and Christopher Hanna, 45, both of Soldotna, have been stranded since Friday in the Harding Ice Field on the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage.
An airplane dropped them off for a day trip in the largest ice field entirely within U.S. boundaries and could not return that night because of foul weather.
Neyman and Hanna were able to communicate with a cellphone and by satellite text messages. They told friends they spent the first night in the tent they carried until wind and snow destroyed it Saturday.
They dug snow caves for shelter but reported they were running low on provisions.
Storms kept away rescuers from two agencies who tried to reach the ice field Sunday.
The Air National Guard attempted again Monday with a Pave Hawk helicopter carrying four rescuers and a C-130 airplane.
Satellite coordinates indicated Neyman and Hanna were on 13-mile-long Bear Glacier at an elevation of about 4,300 feet.
Reaching the skiers by ground was not possible because of the weather and terrain, officials said.
The Harding Ice Field covers 700 square miles of Alaska’s Kenai Mountains in glacier ice, according to the National Park Service. It is home to more than 30 glaciers.