February 28, 2017
Contact: Katherine Belcher
, (907) 683-9583
Rangers at Denali National Park and Preserve and Alaska State Troopers today rescued a solo musher who was stranded in a developed area near the Toklat River due to recent heavy snowfall.
On Feb. 26, the Alaska Region Communications Center, which is headquartered in Denali, received notification from a local musher that Iris Vandenham had used a satellite device (SPOT) to request help to get out of the backcountry. Vandenham was on a planned six day solo mushing trip scheduled to end on February 27, 2017. Vandenham had very limited one way outgoing communication.
Denali received nearly 23 inches of snow over the past week at the park headquarters, and established mushing trails have been covered in snow. Park staff used the GPS coordinates transmitted by the SPOT device to determine that Vandenham was staying in a temporary shelter used by back country and other staff.
Vandenham, from Talkeetna, left the Stampede Trail on Feb. 21, 2017, with approximately six days of supplies. She is an experienced musher and an established member of the Talkeetna community. Alaska State Troopers used an A-Star B-3 helicopter from Fairbanks to evacuate Vandenham and her six dogs from the temporary shelter. The Troopers airlifted Vandenham and her dogs to an air strip in Healy.