JUNEAU, Alaska — Three hikers stranded since the weekend on a glacier near Anchorage were rescued on Friday morning by the Alaska Air National Guard, military officials said.
All three were transported to an Anchorage hospital with minor frostbite injuries, according to a National Guard statement.
The rescue ends three days of failed efforts to rescue the group and drop provisions. The missions were scuttled by dangerous weather conditions and near-zero visibility.
“This was a pretty complicated mission,” said the rescue coordination center’s director, Lt. Col. John Morse, in a prepared statement. “(Pilots) couldn’t see the ground most times … surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks, attempting to drop supplies and reach the climbers who are stuck at 8,500 feet.”
The climbers were dropped off on April 3 on Knik Glacier, an ice field 50 miles east of Anchorage, but bad weather prevented the group’s scheduled pickup two days later, leaving them stuck at about 8,500 feet of elevation, according to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
The hikers then took shelter in an ice cave after high winds damaged their tent, the center’s director, Morse said.
Using a satellite texting device, the hikers managed to send word on 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 kept them at-bay 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 crews did an incredible job battling the weather, thinking of creative ways that we could get supplies to the climbers and persevering throughout the last four days,” Morse said.