A 17-year-old snowmobiler who built a snow cave after being separated from his friends and family said the South Cariboo Search and Rescue are “real heroes.”
The teen, who asked that his name not be used, was riding with a group of friends on Mica Mountain, northeast of Canim Lake, when his group turned around to help another member who got stuck. The youth headed down a trail to turn around but it was too steep to climb out.
“It was a difficult hill to get back up,” he said. “I left the ground quite disturbed.”
Once he realized he was lost in unfamiliar terrain, the teen parked his sled in a wide-open clearing, walked to a nearby treed location and built himself a snow cave in preparation to spend the night on the mountain.
Although an experienced snowmobiler, he said he hadn’t ridden in that area before. He had also never had to build a snow cave after getting lost but knew he had to get a shelter up before the temperature dropped. While he had food and water, he said, he had nothing to start a fire.
“I really needed to think about the ventilation and insulation and the size and how I could be warm in there,” he said. “I didn’t panic. I just kept calm and did what I thought was needed to prepare to go through the night. What really kept me calm was my confidence in SAR to try and retrieve me.”
His friends and family realized he was missing when he didn’t show up at the parking lot. The 100 Mile House RCMP said they received the call for help at 6:15 p.m. and SAR. At 10:34 p.m., searchers sent a message saying they had found the youth in good condition. At that point, the teen had been separated from the group by that time for six to eight hours.
The South Cariboo Search and Rescue praised the youth for his quick thinking and backcountry survival skills. Val Severin, a team leader with the South Cariboo SAR, said they found the youth did all the right things in staying put and making himself a shelter where he could remain warm and dry.
“From a search standpoint the fact he looked after himself first and foremost was great,” she said. “If he had tried to explore and find a different way out, our search area would have expanded. Because he was so close we were able to locate him quite quickly.
“He definitely contributed to the success (of the search) just by making the choices he had. The snow cave was remarkable.”
Severin credited the other backcountry users in the area for calling them and the 100 Mile House RCMP in to assist. She urged anyone heading into the backcountry to have the main essentials as well as equipment, such as personal radios or GPS units, to stay in contact with each other in remote areas where there is no cell service.
The youth agreed everyone should be prepared to spend a night outside and urged them to pack everything they might need. He said he was cold but relieved and thankful when the SAR volunteers showed up.
“The real heroes are the SAR who worked all night to try and find me,” he said.
100 Mile House RCMP Cpl. Ryder Birstwistle also commended SAR.
“100 Mile House RCMP wishes to thank the South Cariboo SAR team for their professionalism and for bringing this search to another positive outcome,” Birstwistle said. “We in the South Cariboo are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of well-trained volunteers to assist in times of need.”
Severin said there appears to be an uptick in the number of snowmobile incidents in B.C. this year, likely as a result of more people getting outside. However, the number of calls locally remains about the same as usual.
With a file from Angie Mindus