Monday, August 22, 2011 10:31:56 PM America/Denver
Search and rescue operations started that night, but a large winter storm was blowing in. Operations had to be called off several times as heavy snow, wind, and fog hampered efforts. Finally on Tuesday things cleared up and the search was put back underway. Things were looking bleak Tuesday afternoon though, and the family and rescuers were preparing for the worst.
Two helicopters had been in the air helping with the search, but one had been sent out to for maintenance. A Life Flight chopper was called in to take it's place, and the search area was expanded. Within minutes of getting in the air, the new chopper spotted the men jumping and waving their arms just outside the search area.
This miraculous story was more than just a fortunate ending though. The two men were well prepared for just the type of emergency they found themselves in. They were found without frostbite or injury, and there is a great deal we can learn from their experience.
What began as a quick ride became anything but when fog descended on the two riders. Although they were on trails they know well, the fog disoriented them and they ended up going miles in the opposite direction. From there on out, however, they played everything right. The men built a snow cave and safely waited out the storm inside. They didn't have much to eat, but they did have a supply of beef jerky to get them by. Once the storm cleared they were able to get a fire going as well.
When the helicopter spotted them, they had stomped out a large SOS in the snow, and one was waiting near camp while the other had climbed to the top of a nearby ridge in an effort to be more visible. Even after 3 days in cold temperatures and severe weather, the men were healthy, although quite hungry.
For all you heading out on the trails, take this as a warning. It's not always enough to just have a well tuned engine and good snowmobile shocks. You need to be prepared for any emergency. Tell someone where you'll be and when you should be back. If you are stranded, have the necessary skills to survive. Being prepared means that when the time comes, you can keep a clear head and avoid panic so your story can have a happy ending as well.