TNSAR Search 03/01/2004

Four boarders overnight at Whiskey Creek Camp

As 8 members of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team were unpacking their gear at 2:30 am after a successful search at Sugar Bowl, the pagers went off again. This time for four snowboarders from Alpine Meadows. This new search was called out and 6 additional skiers responded making a total of 14.

We quickly dried out our gear and swapped out batteries in radios and headlamps. We called PCSO to request food at the command post, and left for Alpine. On our arrival we found the place dark and cold. The good news was that the snow had stopped, and it was turning into a beautiful clear cold night. Low temperature at the summit of 0 F with no wind. Perfect for a search.

The report had come from a friend in Reno when the four boarders failed to return home by 1:30 am. Their vehicle was located in the parking lot, covered with snow, and the search was initiated. Jeff from Alpine Patrol arrived shortly after us, opened the place up and began arranging transportation. The food took some time, but was well received when it arrived. Meanwhile we were briefed on the situation.

On Friday it had snowed, heavily at times, with strong winds. All tracks up high would be expected to be drifted in. The High Traverse, Beaver, Estell, and the Palisades had been closed all day. The skiing had been good, and open on the back of Scott Peak. There had been some large Avalanches released during control efforts the previous day, including a big slide over the main road. There had been no control in the backcountry.

Alpine Patrol felt very strongly that the boarders would be off Scott Peak, perhaps in the Subdivision Bowl area. Any access to the 5-Lakes creak basin was closed, and they thought it unlikely that anyone would have hiked out that way. They also felt that the Avalanche threat was high in the 5-lakes drainage. After consulting with Alpine Patrol and PCSO, the team agreed to concentrate on Scott Peak, but send a team to 5-lakes creek just to be thorough.

10 skiers were transported to the top of the Lakeview chair, where we broke into three teams. One covered the Outer Outer Limits run, another went to the Subdivision Bowl, and the last cut the East slope above Paige Meadows, exiting in Munchkins. No track or sign was found.

The 5-lakes team was transported to the top of Summit Chair. They followed the safe ridge line down to Big Springs, traversing left and right for track. Shortly after entering the tree line, they located a possible, drifted in, track. This track soon joined with another, then another, until there were four. The tracks continued down until they hit the flats at 5-lakes creek where they took off their boards and began post holing North, upstream towards 5-lakes and ultimately out. Our team followed them to the Whiskey Creek Camp. They had stumbled on the camp (two dilapidated 100 year old sheepherders cabins) and spent the night. Evidently they got a fire going, and melted some snow in a rusty shovel.

At first light, the CHP helicopter H-20 flew up from Sacramento. Following the Latitude and Longitude coordinates given them by the search team, they shortly located the four errant boarders. H-20 landed in a nearby clearing, and had the boarders lined up like four ducks, ready to be loaded by pairs when our team arrived five minutes later. H-20 then made short work of ferrying the 4 boarders and 4 searchers out of the wilderness. The boarders were none the worse for wear. They were checked out buy Alpine Patrol and released.

We were then treated to breakfast at the Alpine Meadows cafeteria by PCSO as the public was arriving to fight for those precious First Tracks in the new powder. All were back home by 10:30 am.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles
Marty Schoonmaker
Terri Viehmann
Kelli Twomey
Derek Wilson Paul Honeywell
Mike Kennett
Steve Twomey
Bernie Mellor
Doug Read
Jonathan Laine
Randall Osterhuber
Russ Viehmann
Joe Pace
Jim Risnstra
Sarah Lagano
Ron Driller
Mark Johnson