Snow, wind, avalanche potential make for harrowing rescue
MOUNT ROSE “-For the second straight day, local rescuers had to fight through intense winds and snow to rescue a pair of stranded hikers Monday night in the Sheep’s Flats area of the Mount Rose Meadows.
Sgt. Darrin Rice of the Washoe County Search and Rescue team said two male snowshoers called 9-1-1 at about 5 p.m. after becoming disoriented in gusting winds and snow.
He said the men remained calm and were able to stay in cell phone contact with rescuers until a foot team of SAR personnel located them at about 9 p.m. Neither suffered injuries.
“They were well-prepared,” Rice said. “They did the right thing by sitting down and calling 9-1-1.”
Rice said the men were prepared to sleep the night out in a makeshift snow cave had rescuers been unable to reach them.
The event was eerily similar to another rescue just the night before at the Meadows, a mere .18 miles away.
“You could just change the dates on the reports and the subjects from a married couple to two guys, they were literally right on top of each other,” Rice said.
The SAR rescuers were shuttled into the area by personnel from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, who responded to the scene with an engine, ambulance and two snowmobiles for the rescue.
Blinding snow, fading sunlight and cold temperatures again led to a few tense hours Sunday afternoon as rescuers from the SAR and NLTFPD searched for a married couple from California who were lost in the area of Mt. Rose Meadows east of State Highway 431.
No one was injured.
The couple, identified in a WCSO report only as Californians in their late 20s, were snowshoeing in the area when they realized they were lost around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
According to the WCSO report, they called dispatch by cell phone saying they were lost and needed assistance.
A deputy from the Incline substation responded initially, said Sgt. Frank Schumann, before realizing search and rescue would be needed and called for the SAR group at about 2:45.
About 18 people from the SAR division arrived, along with seven members of the NLTFPD’s A-shift the fire district’s snowmobiles.
What awaited them were 30-40 mph wind gusts and driving snow, said A-shift battalion chief Mike Schwartz, who responded to the scene.
“What affected us the most is that once the snowmobile drivers lose daylight their effectiveness is cut in half,” Schwartz said.
They also faced ‘considerable’ avalanche danger, Schwartz said, something every team member was briefed on before the search started.
The search started at about 3:05 p.m. at about 8,600 feet, with the Sheriff’s search and rescue Hasty Team sweeping the area.
“What worked in our favor was we were in cell phone contact with the people the whole time, so when the storm cleared here and there they could see the lights from Tahoe,” Schwartz said. “They were getting more and more anxious as we started to lose daylight.”
Schwartz said the two had a small amount of food and water but not much else.
As darkness dropped on the mountain, Schwartz said the rescuers made another discovery” a female snowshoer.
“She had no transceiver, nothing, so it was good that we found her,” Schwartz said.
The snowshoer was fine, Schwartz said, and the search continued for the hikers.
They were located southwest of the Tahoe Rim Trail at about 6:30 p.m. by a search and rescue dog, Geiger, a black lab.
“We were on the phone with them and they said they found the dog,” Schwartz said. “We said, no, the dog found you.”
The couple made contact with Geiger’s handlers a short while later and, due to the snow drifts which Schwartz said could get up to about six feet, it took the rescuers about an hour to get the pair back to the highway.
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