2 Alaska Skiers Recount Incredible Survival in Snow Cave
'The closer that ceiling got, the more unnerving it was'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 21, 2016 10:04 AM CDT
This April 11, 2016, photo provided by the Alaska Air National Guard shows a four-man rescue team skiing on top of the Harding Icefield in Alaska.   (Senior Airman Allen-Mikel Armstrong/Alaska Air National Guard via AP)
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(Newser) – By their third day in a tiny snow cave under 4 feet of snow, Chris Hanna and Jenny Neyman thought the shelter in an Alaska ice field might turn into a tomb, per the AP. The 7-by-5-foot space Hanna dug started with a ceiling 40 inches high. Warmth and humidity from their bodies made the ceiling sag to within 8 inches of their faces. Besides hypothermia, hunger, and a shortage of oxygen, the experienced outdoor enthusiasts had to stave off claustrophobia. "The closer that ceiling got, the more unnerving it was," Neyman says. Luckily, their ordeal ended a few hours later. A locator beacon led an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter to the shelter, and the crew swooped in and dug out the pair after four nights on Harding Icefield, including three in the cave. Neyman, 36, and Hanna, 46, had planned to spend April 8 cross-country skiing on the 700-square-mile ice field.

Then the weather turned. They said their first inclination was to ski down one of the ice field's 30 glaciers, but by nightfall, with visibility at 10 feet, Neyman said she couldn't go on. They spent the night in their tent as a blizzard moved in. At one point, Hanna sent text messages to his 18- and 22-year-old daughters, saying he loved them and was proud to be their dad. Then, figuring their only hope of survival was a snow cave, he set about making one with his hands and a ski. He created a 7-foot, 30-inch-diameter tunnel, then dug horizontally to create the snow cave. They scrambled inside with sleeping bags, pads, a stove, and food. The stove wouldn't stay lit. They made an air hole with a broken tent pole, tying an orange space blanket to it as a signal for rescuers. It worked. By luck, their phone battery held out just long enough for a signal to be picked up. Click for the full story.