Trip to Knik Glacier quickly turns into a rescue mission

 A rescue in-progress near the Knik Glacier on Sunday, Feb. 16. Image Courtesy of Luke Daniels.
A rescue in-progress near the Knik Glacier on Sunday, Feb. 16. Image Courtesy of Luke Daniels. (KTUU)
Published: Feb. 21, 2020 at 11:46 AM AKST
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The ice broke unexpectedly, and a friend disappeared into darkness.

Luke Daniels peered over the edge where his friend fell, in the middle of a narrow tunnel at the base of the Knik Glacier. Standing below on a precariously thin shelf of ice was his friend – the ice was cracking beneath his feet, threatening to plunge him into the glacial water below.

Daniels knew he had to act fast.

“I just knew I had to get back out of the cave, get as much people as I could together, get a rope -- as much rope as I could -- and get back in that cave and pull him out,” Daniels said.

Daniels realized the ice on the 150-foot path they came in on was also thin. He knew it might break beneath him while attempting a rescue. But that didn’t stop him from trying.

“I was on auto-pilot. I had to do one thing," Daniels said.

Sparing little time Daniels briefed the remaining members of his crew. They pooled together what supplies they had and formed a rescue plan.

“We got as much winch line, ratchet straps and anything else we had, tied it together and made a long rope,” Daniels wrote.

Daniels secured one end of their make-shift rope around his body and the other to a friend’s vehicle. He attached a 20-foot tow strap to the front of his torso – the final rescue line to lower down to his trapped friend.

After over an hour of cautious effort the group secured the rescue line to their fallen friend and safely pulled him out. But Daniels knows things could have gone much worse, and hopes this story will remind people to be safe near glaciers.

“I think everybody did the absolute best that they could with the gear we had,” Daniels said. “It was a crazy day, for sure.”

Alicia King with the Chugach National Forest actually recommends people avoid exploring the ice caves at Knik Glacier – no matter how enticing they may be.

“You will come across ice formations -- sometimes near the glacier or at the foot of the glacier – those look really cool, but they can be very dangerous because they’re not stable,” King said. “As much as we like people to get out in the forest and recreate, we offer caution.”

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