3 hikers rescued after several days on Alaska glacier

A group of fishermen with the Knik Glacier in the background in 2003.

Story highlights

  • The three were low on supplies and had hypothermia
  • At first, the weather was too bad to effect successful rescue

(CNN)The situation looked dire this week for three hikers stranded on an Alaskan glacier more than a mile and a half above sea level.

High winds had ruined their tent. Their supplies were running low. Hypothermia had set in. And the weather was too bad for pilots to see the terrain and drop supplies accurately, let alone conduct a a rescue.
But on Friday, the three hikers -- all in their 30s and all from Anchorage -- were at last plucked off the Knik Glacier, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east, by the Alaska National Guard.
    They appeared to have minor frostbite and were taken to the hospital, Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Kalei Rupp said.

    Hikers text their plight

    The week-long ordeal began April 3, when the three hikers, Benjamin Still, 35, Danielle Varney, 32, and Sean Cahoon, 31, were dropped off. Two days later, on Sunday, the weather had deteriorated and they failed to reach their scheduled pick-up point.
    The hikers had a satellite device with texting ability, and they notified a friend of their predicament. And late Tuesday, that friend contacted Alaska state troopers who, in turn, notified the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.
    "They were stuck at approximately 8,500 feet in elevation," Lt. Col. John Morse, deputy director of the Rescue Coordination Center, said in a news release.

    Skiers to the rescue

    Beginning early Wednesday morning, numerous attempts were made to reach the hikers but poor weather hampered the efforts, officials said.
    Then, Friday morning, success.
    "We had to take a helicopter to the glacier," Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Kalei Rupp said. "And then two para rescue men were able to ski to the hikers, who appeared to have minor frostbite."