Chalet guides help 5 ski to safety from planes stranded on Ruth Glacier

The Sheldon Chalet in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. Guides from the Chalet provided assistance to five people stranded on the Ruth Glacier in early April 2021. (Phillip Manning/KTNA)
On Saturday, personnel from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, National Park Service and Alaska State Troopers received word of a group of five people who were stranded with their airplanes on the Ruth Glacier in the Alaska Range.
Maureen Gualtieri, public information officer for Denali National Park, says the five had already been on the glacier overnight when they called for help.
“They had, from my understanding, gone in for a day trip — flightseeing — in the [Alaska] Range on Friday, and weather came in quickly,” Gualtieri said. “They landed in the Ruth Gorge but were unable to safely take off due to weather.”
Gualtieri says the group was able to communicate via satellite phone to receive weather updates, but conditions didn’t improve on Saturday. With limited survival supplies, they called for help.
But the same weather that kept the stranded group on the glacier kept rescuers off it. Fortunately, the Sheldon Chalet was just a few miles away and keeps professional guides on staff. Gualtieri says they were able to ski out to the stranded aviators.
“They didn’t need to come too far, but they brought all the necessary skis, harnesses, ropes to guide these five individuals back to safety — back to food, warmth and water,” she said.
Robert Sheldon, whose family operates the chalet, says they were in contact with the stranded group before the official call for help went out. He says there were potential windows in the weather to allow the planes to take off and leave the Alaska Range, but none of them came to be.
The Sheldon Chalet’s guides packed two sleds with extra skis and gear and made their way to the planes over the course of about three hours. The group made it to safety by about 10:00 pm on Saturday. The stranded party was put up in the original Sheldon Mountain House, just behind the luxury chalet, until they were flown out on Monday.
Robert Sheldon says snow had already gathered nearly up to the wings of the three small planes by the end of the weekend, and that local aviation experts were being consulted on how to safely retrieve them once weather allowed.
Disclosure: Sheldon Chalet, which provided assistance to the stranded aviators, is a sponsor of KTNA’s “The Blue Tarp.”

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