Snowboarders safe after night outdoors near Nelson

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Four backcountry snowboarders who were lost in Hummingbird pass Saturday managed to find their way to safety after spending the night outdoors.

The group of men in their late-20s and early-30s, including one local from Ymir and others from Kelowna, Calgary and Edmonton, had planned to hike along evening ridge Saturday and return to Ymir by dinner time.

The partner of the local man contacted RCMP around midnight to report the men missing. She had driven up Whitewater Road and found the men's vehicle still in the parking lot.

Nelson Search and Rescue were notified and two of their members spent the night out on Whitewater Road driving back and forth with their sirens and lights on in attempt to attract the snow boarders towards the road.

Meanwhile, a search was co-ordinated through the night to commence at first light. Around 7 a.m., 23 Search and Rescue members from Nelson and South Columbia units started looking for the missing men.

"We didn't have much to go on in terms of where to look," explained search manager Scott Spencer. "Their plan was go out along evening ridge and decide where to go once they got there."

The men hadn't packed to spend the night, but were warmly dressed and prepared for day outdoors.

Searchers spent three hours looking for the men, checking in places where skiers typically get lost in that area. Then, at about 10 a.m. one of the missing snowboarders showed up at the search base — he and his party had safely made it out of the backcountry on their own.

"They had gone ahead with their original plan of skiing Evening Ridge, but in the thick cloud cover has become disoriented," Spencer explained.

They meant to snowboard towards Whitewater Road, but instead went into the Selous Creek basin. They snowshoed until dusk looking for the road. Around 5:30 p.m. they decided to dig in for the night and built a fire to keep warm.

In the morning they continued walking and eventually made it to Highway 6, near Cottonwood Lake.

Though the men were fairly familiar with the Hummingbird Pass area and had spent the week snowboarding there, as well as a week doing similar trips in the area last winter, they didn't have a map or a compass to assist them when they became lost.

"Even experienced people can easily to get disoriented out there," Spencer said, suggesting all backcountry tourers pack the supplies to spend the night.

He said it helps Search and Rescue to know as early as possible when a person hasn't reported back from a backcountry tour.

"People are sometimes put off calling for help because they're under the mistaken impression that they'll have to pay for the rescue if we come in to help locate someone," Spencer said.

In fact, there is no charge for rescue services in BC. Search and Rescue members are all volunteers and the province pays for costs associated with the search.

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