UPDATED: Snowshoers missing near Whitewater Ski Resort found safe
Two snowshoers from Quebec spent a chilly night out in the Hummingbird Pass area near Whitewater Ski Resort after getting lost Sunday.
Searchers located the man and woman, both 25, safe and sound on Evening Ridge early Monday afternoon.
“They were surprisingly fine,” says Murray Springman of Nelson Search and Rescue. “They were just hungry and thirsty. In my professional opinion, they were very, very lucky.”
He says ground crews were minutes away from suspending their search due to “brutal” weather conditions.
The pair was last seen about 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
“A local guy was up there skiing and ran into them snowshoeing,” says RCMP Sgt. Darryl Little. “They were headed in the totally wrong direction. So he provided them with directions back to the parking lot, and they followed his tracks down.”
However, they never made it back, and around 6 p.m. were reported missing to RCMP. A car left in the Whitewater parking lot with Quebec plates gave police an idea who they were looking for.
Eight members of Nelson Search and Rescue scoured the area from 8:20 p.m. until after 3:30 the next morning without finding any sign of the missing snowshoers.
The search resumed around 9:30 a.m. Monday with the help of crews from Rossland, Fruitvale, and Kaslo — about 20 people in all.
A helicopter flew for about an hour that morning and tracks were spotted heading toward the Evening Ridge area, which disappeared into the forest.
High winds, limited visibility, and heavy snow hampered the search. Around 1 p.m., ground crews on skis were about to pack it in due to high avalanche hazard.
“The conditions were deteriorating every minute,” Springman says. “It was blowing, snowing. I was thinking about calling it, but said let’s give them another five or ten minutes.”
At 1:25, searchers radioed that they had come across fresh tracks, and a few minutes later that they had found the lost pair.
“It was a very happy outcome for us,” Springman says. “A good news day.”
The pair was brought out to a waiting snowmobile and then checked by first aid attendants, who found they were fine.
The man is from the Dolbeau-Mistass area of Quebec and the woman from St. Gerrard-Majella. Springman said their comprehension of English was “minimal,” but they were able to establish the two climbed into a tree well to get out of the wind.
They were not prepared for the ordeal.
“They had no avalanche equipment, no pack with them, no matches, no extra clothing, nothing. Just their snowboards and snowshoes,” he says. “But we got them out and for us that’s the most important thing.”
They were staying at a Nelson hostel.