Exploring glaciers is risky business. There are infinite factors that can take a climber from their comfort zone to the brink of death in a matter of seconds, as Alan Gordon and Collin Rielly found out while climbing the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska in 2013.
Not even expert knowledge can prevent certain horror stories from occurring, and while the longtime friends roamed carefully over the ice, Collin felt the floor give way beneath his feet.
“All I thought was that I would land in the water and at that temperature you don’t have five minutes…”
Next thing he knew, he was plummeting downwards with no premonition of where or whether he would stop, and with no idea of the terrifying position in which he was about to be trapped.
“The ice gave out under my feet,” he recalls, in the Weather Films documentary on the incident, which you can watch below.
“The tip of the ridge just broke and I then freefell a good 30 feet. All I could think was that I was going to land in water and at that temperature you don’t even have five minutes then you’re done.
“My first daughter had just been born and I was thinking I would never see her again. I felt I was letting everybody down. Right at that moment by feet landed on a snow bridge. I was in total shock.”
Indeed, Rielly soon found himself trapped in between two glaciers, 30 feet below ground level, and worse yet, the glacier was cracking around him. It was only a matter of time before he would plummet into the freezing water if he couldn’t escape.
Luckily, Collin has good friends. Expect climber Alan Gordon had no ropes or rescue gear with him, but he quickly called Collin’s brother Sean, who lives nearby and quickly navigated his way to the scene of the horror.
The terrain was tough and technical, and unable to hook a rope to his harness, Collin was running out of time. Eventually though, Sean and Alan were able to set up anchors, get a visual on Collin and lower him down a rope tied in a loop, which he placed under his arms.
He was hoisted out of the death pit, and admits he “went from thinking I was dead to knowing I was rescued.”
It’s a chilling story indeed, and one that certainly could’ve turned out disastrously if not for the quick thinking of Alan and Sean. Watch the full tale and find out more in the documentary below: