One sledder spent a chilly weekend night after getting stuck in a ravine in the Blue Lake snowmobile area east of Malakwa.
Shuswap Search and Rescue was called out to help locate four young sledders from Alberta at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5.
The missing men had been sledding around Blue Lake and were to meet back at the cabin around 4 p.m., says Shuswap Search and Rescue search manager John Schut.
While two men made it back to the cabin, two were missing. A call went out to the RCMP at 7 p.m. and a search was soon underway.
A level 2 avalanche technician from Revelstoke was called in and 15 Shuswap SAR members with 14 members of the Eagle Valley snowmobile club were assembled in teams and sent out to search various areas around the Blue Lake cabin.
The two subjects in the cabin had FRS (Family Radio Service) or “walkie-talkie” radios and were able to connect with one of the missing men who was found down a steep ravine about three kilometres north of the cabin.
“Two teams went in to rescue him,” says Schut. “A number of the team members had to leave their snowmobiles and proceed on snowshoes as the terrain was too steep.”
The first missing individual was located at 1:15 in the morning and taken back to the cabin by 2:30 a.m.
The second missing man was without communication and was even farther down the ravine.
“The search was called off for the night while members caught a few hours of sleep,” says Schut, noting the search resumed the next morning with the aid of the Vernon Search and Rescue winch helicopter. “Weather was again a problem; it was snowing and the poor visibility necessitated the helicopter to be grounded for a few hours.”
Back at the ravine, search teams approached from above and below the missing man – from above on snowmobile and snowshoe and from below via a logging road.
“The subject’s snowmobile and the remnants of an overnight stay were found, but unfortunately the subject had started off on foot and was nowhere to be found,” Schut says. “He was later spotted by helicopter at mid-morning on Jan. 6 and brought back to safety.”
Search and Rescue members did not get back to Salmon Arm until 6 p.m. Sunday, many of them operating on little or no sleep.
As he does every year, Schut provided a list of items sledders must have with them when they head out into the backcountry: An FRS and a Spot or InReach personal satellite communicator, along with avalanche tools, extra food and the gear needed to be out overnight, including the ability to make a fire.
“The fellow who stayed overnight was able to build a fire but lacked communication,” he said, advising people who become lost to stay with their machines. “It make it more difficult to find them when they wander away.”