TNSAR SEARCH 07/04/2003
TNSAR Search 07/04/2003

Injured Boarder at Donner Lake Snow Sheds (See MAP 440KB)

On Monday, April 7, Timothy Boyer was snowboarding alone in the steep chutes north of Donner Peak. Tim lives in the subdivision West of Donner Lake, and he and his friends routinely board from Sugar Bowl over the snow sheds, and down to his house. On this day he intended to do it two or three times. It was a beautiful day, clear and calm with highs in the 50s.

He didnít arrive for work at 4:30 PM. By 10:30 his friends had became alarmed, notified Placer County Sheriff and began a search effort in their regular routes. After verifying that he was indeed missing PCSO paged the Nordic Team at 11:15 PM. Steve Twomey called in and became the coordinator. After consulting with Fred Carry a search was called out for snowmobilers, and snowcats to work into Coldstream Canyon, and A skiers to stage at the Judah base at Sugar Bowl. By 12:30 AM there were 8 skiers and 5 snowmobilers at the Judah Base.

Five skiers were given a lift up Judah by a Sugar Bowl groomer, where they made the traverse to the top of Donner Peak. After some very exciting skiing down from Donner to the Train Sheds the upper teams met up with four of Timís friends. A second team of three drove down to Timís house West of Donner Lake to attempt to follow their regular route up. Timís friends gave some further direction as to his likely actions, and the searchers were about to act on this new information when Peter York heard a call for help from about 1/3 mile away, below the train sheds. He re directed the lower skiers in that direction, and he and Sarah made a quick descent to find Tim.

Tim was in a very uncomfortable spot, wedged against a small tree, in his bivy sack. He was suffering from intense pain in the back, with guarding and pain on palpation of the spine (C-4 and 5). Pneumothorax was also suspected due to the pain in one lung on deep inhalation. He was alert and oriented, and had feeling and motion in all extremities, but could not walk. He had limited recollection of the fall and subsequent events. Evidently he fell hard in the vicinity of the Train Sheds. He then scooted, and slid down slope for some distance where he attempted to dig a snow cave. (he was well equipped with bivy sack, shovel, probe, etc.). After finding that he couldnít get into the cave without excruciating pain he continued down slope until he could go no further. He estimated that he had only moved a couple of hundred yards, in reality he had covered 1/3 mile. He spent about 12 hours in the snow before being located.

A helicopter evacuation was immediately ruled out. The nearest known landing zone for an air ambulance would be on the train sheds, requiring a 1/3 mile pull up hill with the sled. Winch equipped helicopters are not available for night operations in the mountains. The most promising route out was back down to his house, Ĺ mile through steep heavy timber. Randy moved the search truck down from Judah to Timís house, and a team of two skiers returned to the house to scout a route and pick up the sled. Mark met the skiers at the truck, and all three packed up the sled, sleeping bags, ropes, and ensulite pads. The topo map indicated a jeep trail which ran due west to a point 0.2 miles below the scene. That road turned out to be a pipeline right of way, very steep, but passable.

By about 4:30 AM all 8 skiers, Timís 4 friends, and the rescue equipment were on the scene, the sled assembled, and Timothy carefully loaded. He was properly padded and insulated, and securely strapped in. The trip out was made on foot as the breakable crust snow conditions were un-skiable with the sled. The steep pitches on the pipeline road were negotiated with a series of about 10 belays to control the sled. The team made the road where a Truckee Fire ambulance was waiting about 5:30 AM. Timothy was then transferred onto a backboard and immobilized by the Truckee paramedics for transport to Tahoe Forest Hospital.

The snow cats and snowmobiles covered Coldstream Canyon from the top and bottom. As it turned out Tim was North of Donner Peak where snow machine access was not realistic. This does not reduce the value of those searchers contributions. By splitting up the search, each team was operating in the area where they could best use their skills and strengths.

This is the second rescue of a seriously injured subject in as many weeks. We have talked for years how these rescues were inevitable with the numbers of skiers and boarders in the backcountry but had yet to see them. Hopefully this was just a coincidence, and not a trend.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles
Burt Houser
Fred Carry
Terri Viehmann
Marilyn Stack
Amy Horne
Kathy King
Jackie Thomas
Bill Healey Randy Sharp Bill Wise
Mark Johnson
Steve Twomey
Peter Sporleder
Derek Wilson
Sarah Lagano
Peter York
Bernie Mellor
Scoop Remenih
Dave Gleske
Bill Koplin
Bryan DeVore
Rod Mayne
Scott Baumgartner
Brian York