It was a chilly night in the backcountry for two skiers who were unable to make their way out before darkness fell and were forced to camp in a snow cave. Search and Rescue members responded to the area after the pair was reported missing but the skiers

Missing skiers prompt Search and Rescue response

  • Jan. 26, 2011 1:00 p.m.

A father from this area and his son from Whistler were forced to bivouac Monday night in a snow cave on the north side of Mount Grey.

They were reported missing and Search and Rescue (SAR) members were called in.

As evening approached on Monday, the two skiers decided to squeeze in one more run in the drainage between Mount Grey and Mount Kirkup. But the light ran out before they could get off the hill and snow began to fall heavily.

They weren’t lost, but the pair decided to spend the night rather than try to navigate out in the pitch black.

They had a cellphone but no service and no other means to make contact.

They dug a snow cave and curled up with a couple lightweight space blankets.

A family friend became concerned when the skiers hadn’t returned from the hill and the RCMP were contacted at 6 p.m.

The RCMP contacted the resort and Red Mountain Patrol was informed, but after the hill closes these matters are referred directly to SAR.

“We got the call at about 6:30,” said Graham Jones, a director of the Rossland and District SAR. “We had people out in the field from about 8:30 until about 11.”

The team couldn’t verify which direction the skiers had gone, so the search was called off until Tuesday morning.

Nevertheless, lacking any information on the skiers’ whereabouts, SAR members on snowmobiles were stationed all night in Sheep Creek Valley, the drainage to the west of Record Ridge, “just as a precaution.”

“A common occurence in the area is for people to get disoriented on the backside of White Wolf Ridge,” Jones explained, “and they end up in the Esling drainage, which funnels them down to Sheep Creek.”

At about 3 a.m., the sky had cleared enough and the gibbous moon was bright enough to allow the pair to travel uphill. They got cell coverage and contacted their friend.

SAR were notified at 7:00 a.m. that the skiers were okay, had spent the night in a snow shelter, and would be making their way out to Nancy Greene highway on their own to be picked up by their friend.

“We still had five members out in the field, making sure everything was fine.” Jones said, explaining why the SAR trailer remained at the resort until about noon. “We had to make sure that they got out safely. All sorts of things can still happen even if it looks like everything is heading in the right direction.”

The pair was off the hill and out of harm’s way by around 9:30 a.m.

“All’s well that ends well,” Jones said. “We’re happy that nobody was injured and nobody had to endure any discomfort.”

It helped that the skiers were prepared with more than just avalanche gear. “They had extra food and clothing,” Jones said, noting that the father owns a guiding business. “They were well-equipped to spend overnight.”

Jones thanked the members of the South Columbia SAR who sent members to assist the Monday night search. “We also want to thank our members,” he added. “They need to be recognized for what they do, going out at all times of the night to help people who are in a predicament.”

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