Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc. Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc.

TNSAR Search 2/09/2015

Three Guys Missed Benson hut

Submitted by Dirk Schoonmaker

On Monday, February 9, as rain transitioned into snow on Donner Summit, 3 friends left the top of Lincoln Chair at Sugar Bowl to start the 3 mile hike on snowshoes along the ridge to the Benson Hut. Visibility was poor and the men carried heavy packs but not much navigation equipment. About half way out to the hut the men dropped down to the west of the Pacific Crest and ended up hiking below and past the Benson Hut, ending up 3/4 miles southwest of the hut and 700 feet below it. When one of their group collapsed with cramping and exhaustion, they called 911 and Tahoe Nordic was dispatched. The men were able to give their GPS coordinates before one of their phones died.

11 skiers, 2 snowcat operators and a snowmobiler responded to Sugar Bowl at about 9 pm and 10 skiers started out the ridge toward the hut and the GPS location after being transported to the top of Lincoln Chair by team snowcat. After a harrowing 3 hour ski across icy slopes and rock filled gullies, the skiers were located at the point they pinpointed. They were extremely tired but had eaten and gotten some sleep so it was decided to hike them up to the Benson Hut for the night. It was a very slow hike up to the hut, especially for the man who had collapsed due to exhaustion, but they eventually got there at 3 am. The two stronger members of the group then cooked up the ribeye steaks they had planned for the evening's dinner, much to the delight of their rescuers.

After a fine meal, 9 of the searchers started the hike back to Sugar Bowl, while one team member and the 3 men got some sleep in the hut.

Meanwhile, the team snowcat and a Sugar Bowl grooming machine had worked a miracle and gotten a road put in about halfway out to the hut along the crest. The skiers met the snowcat there and were transported out to the Judah Lodge, arriving at 6 am.

The plan was made to send skiers and the snowcat back out in the morning to bring the men in from the Benson Hut. After a second callout, ably handled by dispatch at 6:30 am, 3 skiers and the snowcat departed Judah Lodge to conclude the rescue. Meanwhile the 3 men and their rescuer at the hut prepared to head out to rendezvous. At about 10 the reunion occurred and by 11 all involved were back at Sugar Bowl.

The rescued men were part of a team building advisory group and had decided they needed to get out and do some more challenging adventures. They weren't planning to get lost, but it certainly turned into an adventure and, thankfully, they were all fine (and still friends) at the conclusion.

In the image below, the red circle is the lost men's position and the black circle is the Benson Hut. The data points are using inReach units, a recent (and generous) donation to TNSAR.

Benson Hut search route

SheriffDispatchTruckSkiersSnowcatsSnowmobilesOther
John Lasagna
Ken White
John Riella
Laura Read
Diane Pang
Doug Read
Debbie Kelly Hogan
Lisa Swartz.
Dirk Schoonmaker
Paul Cushing
Bernie Mellor
Dirk Schoonmaker
Bob Wright
Russ Viehmann
Kyle O'Neal
Jim Granger
Scott Baumgartner
Troy Corliss
Paul Kitano
Logan Talbott
Pete York
Brian York
Ray O'Brien
Scott BaumgartnerSugar Bowl Groomers
Sugar Bowl Security

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