TNSAR search 1/29/02
TNSAR search 1/29/02

Alpine Meadows Ski Area to Five Lakes Creek
At about 1800 TNSAR was dispatched to a lost skier search at Alpine Meadows. Weather was clear but extremely cold, it would end up being the coldest night of the winter, -1 F at the lodge. After interviewing a friend of the skier it became apparent that there might be 2 lost people- a “local” snowboarder who talked on the lift with the lost guy and told him he’d show him a good powder stash. They had last been seen taking the backside High Traverse, going south towards Grouse Rock, but on a low traverse line.
TNSAR involvement
At 1910 a hasty team of 5 was taken up the mountain by grooming machine and started scouting for tracks in Big Spring and Grouse Creek. A backup team of 5 “bivvied” in the Summit Patrol Shack. After about a half hour, having dropped down about 1000’, tracks were found in what was probably the north fork of Grouse Creek. The tracks diverged and converged, almost like they weren’t skiing together, and as was found out later, they weren’t. They were easy to follow in about a foot of new snow and continued down to the flats along Five Lakes Creek.

After about a half mile in the flats the tracks went into the Five Lakes Creek which was flowing about 200CFS and was anywhere from 6” to 6’ deep and about 12’ across. Tracks could be seen down stream but it was impossible to say if it was one or two tracks. Two searchers went downstream and three went upstream to find a good creek crossing. As Joe and Russ went downstream, they heard a guy yell from the other bank, and he told them he wasn’t doing well. Russ crossed on a precarious and perilous ice bridge, got to the guy, found that he was the “local” snowboarder, Kris, but was not able to get much more out of him because of incoherence. Russ started warming him as well he could (including stone hard hands to a warm belly) and waited for someone else to cross the creek and help out (and bring a working radio).

Jeff and Dirk crossed upstream in a slightly better spot and Jeff went back to look at the tracks as they came out of the creek and Dirk went to help Russ with the victim. Jeff was able to determine there was only one set of tracks coming out of the creek and by the time Dirk got to the victim Russ had warmed him enough that he was able to say that he had last seen the other guy, Nick, about 100 yards before he crossed the creek. Joe, Mike and Jeff (having recrossed the creek) were able to use this info and backtrack and find the other set of tracks and within 20 minutes they came upon Nick, who was doing much better than Kris, feeling fairly warm and strong. They were able to walk him back to an LZ that had been passed earlier.

Russ and Dirk gave Kris a full new set of upper clothing and, noticing quick improvement, were able to walk him up out of the creek bed up to point where the downstream breeze disappeared. There they dug a hole and continued the thawing process. It was clear that Kris could not walk well enough to recross the creek or to get to an LZ much more than a couple of hundred yards away. (He told them he had waded down steam in water up to his waste because he was tired of wading through deep snow.) Dirk found a possible LZ about a hundred yards away and let the CP know. Careflight 1 was dispatched and looked at the spot but decided it was too steep for a night landing, but thought Careflight 2, with more power, might be able to try. Careflight 2 also looked at the spot and didn’t like it so they went back to Alpine Meadows and picked up 3 sleeping bags, 3 insulite pads, a megamid, a stove, water and pizza and brought them back and dropped them. Then they went to the other LZ and picked up the other team and Nick and transported them to Alpine Meadows. It was about midnight.

No helicopter with a winch was found that would come out at night, despite multiple calls by Fred Carey, but CHP H20 said they would come in at first light. After a cold night, during which a snoring Kris kept Russ and Dirk awake, the three were lifted out one at a time by H20, who’s pilot did a superb job of nose in hovers in blowing snow in a tight spot. A21 circled above the entire time and helped as a relay and information source.

Kris was taken directly to Tahoe Forest Hospital and the last news was that he had no frostbite and was fine. All teams were out of the field at 0830.

Dispatch Skiers Truck Snowmobilers
Marty Schoonmaker
Terri Viehmann
Jackie Thomas
Amy Horne
Lisa Swartz
Jeff Reiger
Dirk Schoonmaker
Russ Viehmann
Dirk Schoonmaker
Mike kennett
Jeff Rieger
Joe Pace
Jonathan Lane
Steve Twomey
Bernie Mellor
Peter Sporleder
John Pang
Jim Coffey Ray O’Brien