ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 53-year-old Australian cyclist survived four nights in the howling cold of the Alaskan wilderness after getting lost and falling into a stream.
Yair Kellner built snow caves to block the chilling wind and hunkered down in his sleeping bagonce he dried himself off and warmed up after crashing through the ice.
Rescuers on snowmobiles carried Kellner to safety Saturday after he was spotted by a pilot.
"I didn't feel psychologically broken down, I knew what I was doing was the best I could be doing,"he told the Anchorage Daily News.
Kellner was last seen by another competitor in the 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational from Knikto McGrath at the Finger Lake checkpoint about 130 miles in.
Exhausted after 40 hours of pushing through deep snow with little sleep, he went down a wrongtrail and into Red Creek Canyon.
Kellner said he had started to turn his bike around when the snowy ice under him suddenly gaveway and he found himself in the creek. He tried to pull himself out, but "it kept collapsing," he said. "It was scary enough that I wasn't scared," he said. "I didn't have time to be scared. The adrenalinekicked in." He thought about ditching his bike but it had all his gear and he knew he'd be in worsetrouble if he walked out with only wet clothes on his back. He eventually made it to solid groundwith his bike.
From mountaineering experience, he knew he was in serious danger of hypothermia. The NationalWeather Service estimated temperatures last week of zero to 25 degrees. With 30 mph winds,though, the temperatures felt colder.
"I stripped down to nothing and wrung out the clothing one piece at time," he said. No matter what he wrung out, the clothes still grew icicles.
He lit his stove to melt snow to drink and spent the first night trying to dry his clothes, one pieceat a time, with his body heat.
The next day, he decided to backtrack, which meant climbing a steep hill. Using the serratedpedals on his bike to wedge his way along, it took him three hours to zigzag up about 500 yards, hesaid.
At the top of the canyon, he looked for his tracks but the wind had swept them clean, leaving himwithout a trail.
Moving kept his body warm, but he didn't know where he was going -- the batteries in his globalpositioning system unit were dead.
For the next two days, he divided his few slices of cheese and four energy bars into squares and fedhimself every few hours. He poured orange Gatorade on the snow to mark his location in casesomeone came by, and propped his bike at the entrance to the snow cave, hoping the bike's reflectorswould catch the attention of someone flying overhead.
To stay alert and to make sure he wasn't succumbing to hypothermia, he sang songs. "I tried to think of more obscure songs, where I had to remember the words," he said.
Organizers Friday alerted Alaska State Troopers but a trooper helicopter found no sign of Kellner that night.
On Saturday, Michael Schroder and Ken Peterson flew over Kellner about five miles north of thetrail.
They dropped the cyclist a note on the back of a flight chart, weighted down by a pack of batteries.
The message said, "Stay put, we'll come get you." Back in Anchorage and in good condition Saturdaynight, Kellner described his rescuers as "fantastic." "People here did exactly what people back inAustralia would have done if someone was in trouble," he said.