Skier rescued on Donner Summit
Search and Rescue personnel early Thursday located a 58-year-old Auburn man, who spent the night on Donner Summit after he lost his way while cross-country skiing in the backcountry.
The Nevada County Sheriff’s Department initiated a search-and-rescue mission at 9:30 Wednesday evening when the lost man’s wife called authorities and advised them that Charles Wallen, 58, had not returned home.
Deputies located the Auburn resident’s vehicle parked near the Castle Peak trailhead, and gave the search a top priority because of the intense winter storm predicted to hit the Tahoe Basin the next day, Sgt. Shannon Moon said in a department news release.
Rescuers on snowmobiles, snowshoes and skis searched the area, and at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Thursday a team of three skiers located Wallen hiding out in a manmade snow cave.
“It was quite an ordeal,” Wallen said Thursday afternoon in a phone interview. “It got dark and I knew I was in a terrible predicament.”
Wallen said he’s been cross-country skiing in the area for over 35 years, and never lost his way before.
“I was in panic and sheer terror,” he said. “My toes were getting numb, and the worst things were going through my mind.”
However, Wallen said he had faith his wife would report his absence as she knew his itinerary and when he was expected home. Once rescued, Wallen received medical treatment at the Donner Summit Fire Station for suffering minor frostbite on his toes.
“When they put my toes in warm water, it was like a dream come true,” Wallen said. “I promised the crew they’ll never have to rescue me again.”
The search mission was the second the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department conducted in a week. The day after Christmas, rescuers scoured the Castle Peak area to locate two cross-country skiers lost in similar circumstance.
“It’s important to know the area, and to let family or friends know your itinerary,” Sgt. Moon said Thursday in an interview. “Castle Peak can be a tricky.”
Wallen said his advice would be to always carry extra emergency gear, even on a short trip.
“I made a mistake, but these people bailed me out, and I learned a valuable lesson ” be prepared and always know where the trail is,” Wallen said.
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