Saturday April 19, 2014

Lost snowmobilers survive cold night

What could have been a cold and potentially dangerous night in the woods was instead just a long and tiring ordeal for four snowmobiliers.

What made the difference for Stewart Carey, his brother Wade, dad Phil and a friend is they prepared for the worst when they embarked for Harp Mountain near North Barriere Lake.

"We've spent our entire lives in the bush. It's like second nature being out there," Carey said Monday.

He said the group had enough food, water, warm clothing and safety gear including shovels, avalanche transceivers and even an avalanche airbag with them when they left for Harp Mountain on Sunday.

The men rode their snowmobiles into a gully and ran out of daylight before they could get out. Carey said they dug a hole in the snow, fell one tree into another to build a lean-to and started a fire.

"We just figured we'd wait until morning," said Carey.

Family, however, became concerned when the men didn't return Sunday night. They contacted RCMP, who recruited the help of search and rescue.

Phil's girlfriend, Lana Rachey, said there's no cell service at Harp Mountain, so she had no idea what happened to the men.

"It's brutal. It's terrible," she said of waiting and not knowing about their well-being.

A co-worker kept in touch with friends who have police scanners and constantly updated Rachey on the search.

"She was right on it," said Rachey.

However, Rachey feared the worst when the co-worker texted her that an RCMP helicopter had been sent to North Barriere on Monday morning as the search resumed.

"That's a real deal," she said, adding she felt sick to her stomach.

The Careys left their shelter at daylight and travelled the 45 minutes back to their truck. Carey said they beat search and rescue volunteers to the vehicle.

Aside from being tired and having a headache, the men are fine, he said.

Rachey was relieved when Phil Carey texted her late Monday morning to say everyone was OK.

Meanwhile, Kamloops Search and Rescue headed to Sun Peaks Resort on Monday afternoon to retrieve three teenage boys who skied out of bounds and became lost.

Tourism Sun Peaks spokeswoman Brandi Schier said the youths, aged 14 to 16, had a cellphone and contacted the resort's ski patrol.

She said the boys were safe and staying put while SAR volunteers came to their aid.

The trio was back in the village Monday night.


The combination of new snow, wind and warmer temperatures have created a considerable risk of a backcountry avalanche, an avalanche forecaster said Monday.

"That's your typical recipe for an avalanche problem," said Shannon Werner of the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

Werner said the snowpack doesn't like quick changes, be it in temperature or a new volume of snow.

Skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers should check bulletins on the Canadian Avalanche Centre website, which are updated daily, before heading out, she said.

"Really focus on what the actual avalanche problem is. Don't just look at the danger rating. Go deeper," said Werner.

Werner advised anyone who enjoys the backcountry to take an avalanche preparedness course, adding that no one should venture out without a digital avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe.

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