Two more missing snowboarders found near Whitewater

Nelson Search and Rescue was called out to the Whitewater area for the second time in three days on Wednesday. - Bob Hall photo
Nelson Search and Rescue was called out to the Whitewater area for the second time in three days on Wednesday.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

For the second time in three days, a pair of lost snowboarders rescued from the backcountry has Nelson Search and Rescue frustrated that the utterly unprepared keep taking risks.

The latest snowboarders were reported missing before midnight on Tuesday and after an extensive search were  found Wednesday afternoon.

“These two gentlemen were completely unprepared. They had no pack, no food, no water, no snowshoes — they just had what they were wearing and their snowboards. In my opinion, these two were very fortunate that we found them when we did,” said search manager Murray Springman.

Nelson RCMP received a call about the missing snowboarders, two males aged 30 and 40. They were reported overdue with their vehicle still in the Whitewater parking lot, but these were the only true clues as to their whereabouts. The men, who hinted to friends where they may be venturing, were described as good snowboarders but not frequent out-of-bounders.

“We cannot stress the importance of being properly prepared and leaving an accurate itinerary with friends or with family. These two never really told anyone where they were going,” said Springman. “We had no idea where they might be.”

Search and Rescue were alerted and at first light started their search by helicopter, but poor visibility limited the area that could be searched. Avalanche risk being high, technicians were onboard to look for signs of an avalanche which could have buried the snowboarders. None were seen, neither were tracks.

Two ground teams were also deployed and at 1 p.m., the snowboarders were spotted sinking up to their waist in snow on the backside of Prospector Ridge in Qua Creek drainage.

“They were on snowboards. They did not have any snowshoes or means of transportation to get back up,” said Springman.

The pair were taken snowshoes and helped up before taking them to Whitewater lodge for medical attention. They both had frostbite on their toes and one had frostbite on his right hand.

Springman said the snowboarders hunkered down overnight and should count themselves lucky to come out of this experience with only minor injuries.

“When we got called I figured, it’s cold, it’s been snowing. The avalanche hazard is high,” he said.

“With the father and son [earlier this week] we were fortunate that no one was hurt. I wondered if we would see a second time lucky as well — well thank heavens we did.”

This latest rescue comes on the heels of a missing father and son found near Whitewater earlier this week. Springman understands the allure of venturing out of bounds.

“The backcountry is great. It’s beautiful. But you have to be properly trained, equipped, etc.,” he said.

Periodically there is a true accident, said the search manager with 23 years experience. But far too often recklessness is the reason his organization is called out.

“We do what we’re trained for and what the public expects from us, but it’s frustrating. This is twice in three days having to go into the backcountry, putting our members’ safety at risk to try and locate people and bring them out when they are careless, really. They’re not properly prepared.”

Springman estimates the cost of this rescue in the $5,000 to $7,000 range with the hire of a helicopter. When asked if people should bare some of the expense of a search if they venture out of bounds unprepared, Springman said he’d never enter that debate.

“We train for this. The public donates a lot of money. We purchase the best equipment available and we go out and bring people back. If they should be charged? You will never get a comment out of a search and rescue volunteer what should happen to the subjects.

“Our job is to go find them and bring them back,” he said.

— With files from Bob Hall

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