NPS - National Park Service

04/07/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/07/2021 19:10

Five Aviators Stranded in Denali National Park Make It Home Safely

April 7, 2021
Contact:Maureen Gualtieri, (907) 733-9103

The pilots and passengers of three private aircraft weathered in on Denali National Park and Preserve's Ruth Glacier over the weekend have safely returned home to Anchorage, Alaska. On the afternoon of Friday, April 2, the three pilots and two passengers, one of whom was a teenager, had landed in their small ski-equipped aircraft on the Ruth Glacier during a routine day flight, but were stranded when clouds rapidly moved in, prohibiting a safe flight out.

The group, which had overnight survival gear and was in consistent satellite phone contact with their families, remained with their aircraft overnight on Friday hoping to fly out the following morning. Based on forecasts of continued snowfall, as well as heightened caution due to the presence of a youth, the pilots requested agency assistance through the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) late morning on Saturday. As the winter storm precluded an air rescue, Denali National Park incident managers coordinated a ground rescue with two professional mountaineering guides based at the Sheldon Chalet, a private commercial park inholding located approximately 4 miles up-glacier from the stranded aircraft.

The two guides, temporarily hired as NPS rescue personnel, skied to the five stranded individuals to render assistance on Saturday afternoon. Outfitted with skis and safety harnesses from the Chalet, the group was safely guided back to the private inholding.

The stranded aviators were fed and housed overnight at the Chalet's adjacent Mountain House, a rustic backcountry hut, until weather cleared mid-day Sunday, and the five flew out with a local air taxi operator. On Monday morning April 6, the pilots were flown back to the site of their stranded, but undamaged aircraft. After stomping out a runway in the approximately one foot of new snow that had fallen overnight, the three aircraft flew home without further incident.