TNSAR search 2/28/02
TNSAR search 2/28/02

Alpine Meadows--Windy Rescue
At 17:30, as many team members were stuffing goody bags in preparation for The Great Ski Race, pagers went off for a search for a 27 year old skier lost at Alpine Meadows. The scenario sounded similar to the other 5 searches from the top of Ward Peak this year- inexperienced skier following tracks into Grouse Creek drainage. Eight skiers assembled and were taken by grooming machine to the top of Summit Chair, on a clear, windless, 20 degree night. 3 skiers went far left into the South Fork of Grouse Creek, 2 dropped down the middle into Grouse Creek, and 3 went right between Big Spring and Grouse Creek.

Team 3, on the left, picked up tracks after about 30 minutes and followed them until they started climbing to the north, at which point one skier stayed with the track and two went to the bottom of the canyon, picking the tracks up again as they got to 5 Lakes Creek. The tracks above went across Grouse Creek swung north then did a long traverse back down to 5 Lakes Creek and were verified to be the same tracks that the other 2 members of Team 3 were following. Team 2 also skied to the bottom of the canyon. Team 3 caught up with Yang Yang (pronounced yeung yeung, and not related to Yang Yang (A) or Yang Yang (S) of Olympic fame) at about 20:00, in good shape near 5 Lakes Creek, across from the Bear Pen, a familiar place to team members after the the last few weeks.

After giving Yang food, water and clothing, it was determined that he was strong enough to hike out the 2400' to Ward Peak, so he was put on snowshoes and Teams 2 and 3 joined up and started hiking up past Bernie's Hill, along the south side of Grouse Creek at 2030. Team 1 hiked out on their own and stood by at Ward Peak. The first 1800' of climbing went well, taking about 2 hours under a full moon, but then the wind picked up and the situation deteriorated. Very quickly, it got to the point where 60-85 mph gusts were knocking everyone off their feet and the hard snow got even harder, making it treacherous for skin climbing. The final 500' required another 2 hours to conquer.

At one point, Yang Yang was knocked over hitting his face on a rock only to then be landed on by a rescuer, his energy level dropped precipitously after that event, which resulted in a fat lip and abrased chin. Progress was made 5-10 steps at a time, with rest stops between and whenever a gust over 50 mph came through. Frequent references to Everest were made by all. When 50' feet from the top a grooming machine was winched down, but it ended up to far to one side and traversing on the hard pack was virtually impossible. It was winched back up and moved over above the skiers, who were still climbing, and this time was able to come down to a point where access was possible. Yang was loaded inside, a feat in itself. All teams were transported down by groomers, one of whom, coincidentally, had hangglided off Everest in 1986 and said that these winds were as strong as any he had seen on that trip. The remote weather station at the top of Ward Peak was measuring 68 mph winds with gusts to 85 mph.

At 01:00 all teams were in the patrol office eating pizza.

Sheriff Com Van Dispatch Truck/Command Post Skiers Snowmobilers Snowcat
Fred Carey Bill Healey Jackie Thomas
Dee Dee Driller
Jim White
Steve Twomey
Bert Gruenwald
Paul Honeywell
John Pang
Peter York
Mike Kennet
Jeff Rieger
Russ Viehmann
Dirk Schoonmaker
Ron Driller