Manitou Springs family survives three days stranded on Alaskan glacier

By Daniel Chacon Updated: July 9, 2013 at 8:57 am • Published: July 8, 2013 | 8:30 pm 0

Glenn and Chris Hard planned a vacation in Alaska but got an adventure in the tundra.

The Manitou Springs couple, their daughter, Shelby, and Chris Hard's parents spent three nights stranded on Ruth Glacier in Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska after their air taxi was forced to make an emergency landing because of bad weather.

"As we turned around, the fog just came in - totally disorientating," Chris Hard, a State Farm insurance agent, told KTUU in Alaska. "You couldn't really tell where you were. You couldn't tell where you had really been."

The Hard contingent and another passenger, a girl, left on a sightseeing trip of Mount McKinley on July 2. During the flight, nasty weather rolled in.

The pilot decided to land and wait for the weather to clear.

"The problem is it just never cleared," Chris Hard's brother, Nick Bissett, told The Gazette on Monday.

The six passengers and the pilot spent the next three nights squeezed in an airplane little more than 3 feet wide. The flight company, Talkeetna Air Taxi, prepares for such situations, saying it carries sleeping bags for all of its passengers and food and fuel for at least a week.

Glenn Hard, who is the principal at Manitou Springs High School, told KTUU that the seats in the plane were uncomfortable to begin with.

"Trying to survive the entire night was rough," he said.

Bissett said four rangers tried to reach the group by helicopter but couldn't. They hiked in after the second night.

"It took them a few hours to get up there. There's a bunch of crevasses and things, so it's not really safe to climb around on that glacier unless you know what you're doing," he said. "That's why they couldn't hike anybody out. They knew where they were. They knew that they were safe. They just needed to wait for the weather to break."

Bissett said a bigger plane flew in to pick up the group Friday.

"It's just fortunate that they managed to find a window on the fifth early in the morning," he said.

Bissett said the group, which included his parents, Jerry and LouAnn Bissett, remained in good spirits while stranded and praised Talkeetna.

"I don't think that they ever really felt that they were in danger," he said. "It was just a matter of waiting out the weather."

Bissett said his sister Chris and brother-in-law spent months planning the trip, which included fishing and sightseeing.

"We're just glad that they got off" the glacier, he said. "They're happy, they're healthy and they're back on their way for the rest of their trip."

Bissett said the Manitou Springs family plans to return home Saturday.

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Contact Daniel ChacOn: 476-1623 Twitter @danieljchacon Facebook Daniel Chacon

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