Weather hampers rescue of hikers stranded on Alaska glacier

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 10, 2015 11:32 AM

JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - Severe weather conditions have left a group of Alaska hikers stranded on a glacier near Anchorage and also thwarted rescue attempts mounted by the state Air National Guard, military officials said.

The climbers were dropped off a week ago on Knik Glacier, an ice field 50 miles (80.5 km) east of Anchorage, but bad weather prevented the group's scheduled pickup two days later, leaving them stuck at about 8,500 feet (2.6 km) of elevation, according to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.

The hikers were then forced to take shelter in an ice cave after high winds damaged their tent, the center's deputy director, Lieutenant Colonel John Morse, said in a statement.

Using a satellite texting device, the hikers managed to send word Tuesday night to a friend, who contacted Alaska State Troopers, who in turn summoned the rescue center for support, Morse said.

Two Guardian Angels rescue teams from the Air National Guard were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, but weather conditions, including poor visibility, prevented them from reaching the climbers on Wednesday and again on Thursday, Morse said.

Several attempts on Thursday to drop bundles of food, fuel and shelter supplies by parachute also failed, as the climbers were unable to reach any of the locations where the packages landed. The terrain in the vicinity of the ice field, which is surrounded by 13,000-foot mountain peaks, has complicated the operation.

The Air National Guard planned to attempt another supply drop to the hikers after daybreak on Friday, this one including a radio that could put the group in direct contact with rescue teams and make it easier to reach them, officials said.

(Reporting by Steve Quinn; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman from Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Lambert)