This week, we’re grateful for safe returns.
Soldotna residents Jenny Neyman and Chris Hanna were rescued Tuesday after spending four nights hunkered down on the Harding Icefield. The pair had planned to spend a day there hiking and skiing, but a sudden change in weather prevented the pilot who had dropped them off from picking them up on April 8.
For everything that went wrong, Neyman and Hanna, described as experienced outdoors enthusiasts, did a lot of things right. For starters, trustworthy friends knew where they were going, and when they were expected to return. Those same friends knew to notify Alaska State Troopers when things took a turn for the worse.
Even though they were only planning a day trip, Neyman and Hanna packed a tent, a camp stove and enough provisions for two days — just in case. When their tent was shredded by high winds, they had the knowledge and wherewithal to build a snow cave for shelter. They were careful to mark the entrance to their snow cave with skis, giving potential searchers a visual clue.
The piece of gear most important to effecting their rescue turned out to be a satellite communications device. That piece of technology incorporates an emergency locator beacon, which allowed rescuers to pinpoint the trekkers’ location, and text messaging, which allowed the trekkers to provide status updates.
With all that — and plenty of mental fortitude — Hanna and Neyman were able to hold out until the weather cleared enough that rescuers with the Alaska Air National Guard were able to get to their location.
We shudder to think what might have happened had Hanna and Neyman not been as prepared, or if the resources to undertake such a rescue effort were not available in Alaska. This state is filled with truly remarkable people.
We’d also like to use take a moment to remind everyone heading out into Alaska’s wild places to be prepared. Whether you’re fishing, hiking, camping, boating — or trekking across a remote icefield — you don’t have to go too far to find yourself in a wilderness situation where a cell phone won’t work and help is hours away. Even if all you’re doing is a quick day hike, make sure someone responsible knows where you’re going and when to expect you to return. A template for a detailed trip plan is available on the troopers website at http://www.dps.alaska.gov/pio/docs/wildernesstripplan.pdf.
With the early spring, more and more people are getting out to experience the Kenai Peninsula’s remote and not-so-remote wild places. We hope everyone enjoys their adventure, and we wish all travelers a safe return.