Hikers negotiate the Harding Icefield Trail in August 2015 in Kenai Fjords National Park just outside of Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Hikers negotiate the Harding Icefield Trail in August 2015 in Kenai Fjords National Park just outside of Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Rangers urge caution after emergency incidents on Harding Icefield trail

Before attempting the trail, people should be aware of potential hazards of avalanches, rock slides and wildlife.

The Harding Icefield Trail in the Kenai Fjords National Park is known as being the hardest trek in the park, if not one of the hardest on the whole peninsula.

This month there have been two major incidents on the trail, one in which an elderly man suffered head, neck and spinal injuries after a fall and another in which a hiker was rescued on the basis of severe dehydration.

Patrick Otero, a lead park ranger at the visitor center, said Harding Icefield is “definitely the most strenuous hike” at Kenai Fjords.

Before attempting the trail, Otero said, people should be aware of the potential hazards of avalanches, rock slides and wildlife, among many others.

“They should essentially be prepared for that,” he said.

Leah Wold, the lead interpretive park ranger at Exit Glacier, said hikers need to plan for six to eight hours of trekking, and have two liters of water, snacks and even poles.

“A lot of the time these accidents happen on the way down,” she said.

The Harding Icefield Trail is over 8 miles out and back, and according to Otero, has a 1,000-foot elevation gain per mile. According to AllTrails, that makes the total elevation gain around 3,800 feet.

Wold said it’s important to be aware of footing, especially during the steep descent down the Harding Icefield Trail. She also said hikers need to be aware of the rock sides at the traverse, and to keep moving instead of using that as a resting point.

A good habit to get into as well, she said, is to make sure to tell another person that you plan on hiking the trail and when you expect to be back, since there is no cell service.

“You really are in the wild out there,” she said.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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