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

TNSAR Search 1/31/2019

Snowboarder- Alpine Meadows 8 miles to near Hell Hole Reservoir


At 7pm January 31st TNSAR was paged out for a snowboarder missing off the backside of Alpine Meadows Ski Area.

Alpine Patrol had pursued tracks down about 600' below Grouse Rock toward Five Lakes Creek, but had to return to the ski area at that point. Seven TNSAR skiers descended off the ridge in good weather and quickly found the track, which then started down toward Diamond Crossing while taking several diversionary and frustrating uphill jaunts, for as much as 300' vertical, before dropping back into the drainage. After crossing Bear Pen Creek, Powderhorn Creek and Little Powderhorn Creek and continuing down stream another mile or so, the MP was found at 1 am next to Five Lakes Creek, about 2 miles before it entered Hell Hole Reservoir and 8 miles from where he had departed the ski area boundary. He was cold and wet but otherwise fine and after getting a new set of clothes and devouring a lot of the team's food and water he was ready for the hike to safety.

The snowmobilers had originally tried to get up and over the Sierra Crest near Grouse Rock but as the teams kept descending downhill they moved over to Blackwood Canyon to try to get access down Little Powderhorn Creek from Laddies Cove. This was unsuccessful due to large windblown drifts and icy sidehills, which meant the skiers either need to be accessed by helicopter or hike all the way back out to the ski area. After Placer County's Falcon 30 called off its attempt to reach the teams, due to fog on the western slope above Auburn, it was clear that this was going to be a long night.

It was decided to exit Five Lakes drainage via Bear Pen Creek drainage, which went well until the fairly steep headwall at the last 300' of vertical. This icy challenge was surmounted and the team was able to reach the Sierra Crest at about 8 am.

The MP was escorted to meet the snowmobilers who had made a strong push to get up as high as possible on Grouse Ridge, and he was transported to the bottom of Sherwood Chair where he caught a snowcat ride to Alpine Meadows Patrol. Shortly after the MP got in the snowcat a Blackhawk helicopter from Naval Air Station Lemoore landed on the Sierra Crest and picked up 4 skiers who had remained behind. (It was decided not to have the MP wait for the helicopter due to uncertainty of ETA and weather.) All searchers were out of the field by 9:30 am.

It was a long night but the wind never got over 20 mph and it never rained, so really a pretty comfortable search, compared to many that have covered that same terrain.

Sage Bourassa
Dave Lade
B Shaw
T Orsolini
Scott Meyer CoordinatorSpike Wimmer
Bob Wright
Dirk Schoonmaker
Brad Altman
Andrew Cobourn
Andrew Oesterreicher
Ryan Decker
Kyle O'Neil
Troy Corliss
Calvin Mitchell

Tony Sabatella
Ray O'Brien
Dan Wilkins
Michael Murphy
Naval Air Station Lemoore
Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol

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