My Turn: Lessons learned after backcountry rescue
On Friday, Feb. 7, at 11:15 p.m., the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team was called out to rescue four hikers who had become lost trying to get to the Peter Grubb Hut off the Pacific Crest Trail.
They had called 911, so we had the coordinates of where they had holed up. They indicated they had shelter and had a fire going and would stay put. It was snowing heavily at this time with strong winds.
We based our command post at Boreal ski area and dispatched the snow cat to see if it could get close to them and bring them back. Due to the terrain and snow conditions, the snow cat could not get close enough for them to hear it.
We then assembled four snowshoe teams and carried them by snow cat as close to their location as it could get. They were finally located about 4 a.m. and brought out all in good condition.
While this was going on, we were advised by another party of three skiers that one of the group they were going to meet had left the area earlier to ski into the Peter Grubb hut and had advised them that he was lost and was going to hunker down till daylight and then find his way out.
They had last heard from him about 11 p.m. He also had his 30-pound white dog with him. They had tried to locate him but they found the snow conditions quite hazardous and abandoned their effort.
Attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful. Sometime during the early hours of Saturday, he responded by text to his friends who encouraged him to call 911 for help. When he did, we were able to talk to him and got his coordinates and advised him to stay put until we came for him.
We dispatched a team of snowshoers from the earlier search, who were waiting for transport, to his location as well as a snowmobile team from the command center. The snowmobile team got to the Castle Pass area then snowshoed to his location.
He was brought to the snow cat’s location where he was transported to the command post at about 9:30 a.m. He and his dog were in good condition.
Lessons learned for these individuals are to not go into the backcountry in heavy, stormy conditions or late in the day. Never go in alone. Have a means for traveling in snow conditions, i.e., backcountry skis or snowshoes.
Always have a map of the area and have and know-how to use a GPS to navigate. Always carry some form of shelter for everyone in the party. Beyond that these individuals did carry appropriate gear and supplies for the intended trip.
A special thanks to the 22 team members who responded to this search. Way to go!
Jasmine Wevers is the Truckee Community Liaison for Nevada County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue.