A group of visitors enjoying Denali National Park from the air spent the Fourth of July grounded on a glacier on Mount McKinley and were awaiting help from rangers bringing tents, food, and warm clothing on foot.
The six tourists and their pilot, John Nealon of Talkeetna Air Taxi, were forced to land on the Ruth Glacier by bad weather on Tuesday during a routine flightseeing trip.
"Into the night, snowfall and cloud cover continued to build, so the seven of them slept in the DeHavilland Beaver, which was supplied with basic emergency gear including sleeping bags, food, a stove, and a satellite phone," said Denali spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin.
On Wednesday morning, Talkeetna Air Taxi owner Paul Roderick alerted Denali National Park rangers that the aircraft and its passengers, including three men and three women, remained stranded. Continued clouds and intermittent snowfall throughout Wednesday thwarted attempts by both a Talkeetna Air Taxi fixed wing plane and the NPS A-Star helicopter to reach the aircraft, Ms. McLaughlin noted in a release.
The bad weather continued Thursday morning.
"In order to avoid an emergency situation, a ground team of four Denali National Park mountaineering rangers was flown via helicopter to the lower Ruth Gorge late Thursday morning," said Ms. McLaughlin. "The team will travel up-glacier approximately 3.5 miles with food, tents, and warm clothing to re-supply the group in the event their stay is prolonged further. The NPS rangers will remain with the visitors until they can fly out."
According to Denali South District Ranger John Leonard, “Fortunately for all involved, this is not an emergency situation thanks to the sound judgment of the pilot and the emergency preparedness of the air service. Instead of pushing through bad weather, Nealon made the difficult decision to land and face a night or two of discomfort. Gratefully, today we are conducting a re-supply mission instead of responding to an accident.”