Wasatch County Search & Rescue have been busy this week rescuing a handful of stranded snowmobilers.
Wasatch County Search & Rescue, also known as SAR, learned about their first pair of stranded snowmobilers at around 4:15 on Tuesday afternoon. SAR Captain Kam Kohler said a 911 call alerted rescuers that a group of four people had become stuck in the Soldier Creek area.
“They were heading into this cabin and they got separated,” Kohler explained. “One guy just went down off the side of a mountain figured he’d just go down there and turn around and he got into a big hole and just couldn’t get himself out. He dug and dug and dug and dug for he said two and a half to three hours and could not get the snowmobile out. He didn’t leave the snowmobile he stayed right with it, but he still couldn’t get it out. Getting stuck in these winter conditions on a snowmobile is actually very very easy to get stuck. Very difficult to get out if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
SAR then transported the group back to the highway.
The more dramatic rescue came on Wednesday around 5:20 pm when SAR learned of two Texas men missing in the Lake Creek area. The two men had rented snowmobiles and been dropped off at the Lake Creek Trailhead at 9:00 am that morning. After the men did not return the rental company did some searching before notifying SAR.
“We deployed our SAR teams east of Heber up Lake Creek over Timberlakes to the east,” Kohler continued. “They were actually in the Duchesne drainage that drains down towards Tabiona. The father and son were riding in the storm. One of them got stuck and then they got separated and they’d been separated for a couple of hours and they both ended up with their snowmobile stuck and started walking. We found the father first because he was higher up the drainage, higher up the mountain. Hypothermia was setting in rapidly, he’d walked a long way in deep snow. We threw him on a sled and got him out quick.”
After locating the 55-year-old father nearly 15 rescuers began slowly combing the drainage in near zero visibility for the 20-year-old son. Kohler says they pause occasionally to yell out and listen for a response.
“Because he might be under a tree somewhere trying to stay warm,” Kohler said. “So, we stop and yell every couple of minutes, and we heard somebody yell back. He was down in the bottom of the drainage by the creek trying to hole up under a pine tree and get out of the weather.”
Wasatch County Search & Rescue shared a video of the visibility conditions, you can also find that video on KPCW’s Facebook page. SAR reports that both men are doing well with no lasting effects from the hypothermia. Kohler says that the men were inexperienced and getting stuck in those conditions was most likely unavoidable, but not bringing any survival gear was their mistake.
“Anytime you go into the backcountry people need to go more prepared,” Kohler explained. “It’s not a walk in a city park, you’re going into the wilderness. Even if they’d had a simple way to make a fire or if they’d known how to start a fire from their snowmobile you can survive any night. If you can’t light a fire, it’s going to be a very difficult night for you. Especially when you get wet and these guys were wet because they had been walking in snow for quite some time. If you go to the backcountry and you get in trouble its not a situation where you can just make a phone call, and somebody can come running. In this case, no cell coverage, they’re on the other side of the mountain and you’re on your own until search and rescue can come. When we’re in a situation like this where we can’t see it’s a total white out storm it makes getting there and finding you very very difficult.”
Captain Kohler recommends that if you don’t have experience in the backcountry to take someone who has the experience such as a guide.