High River snowmobilers rescued in K-country
RCMP: Turner Valley officers respond to emergency beacon
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Friday, Mar 08, 2013 06:00 am
Two High River snowmobilers are warming up at home after spending a night in the frigid outdoors in Kananaskis Country southwest of Turner Valley.
The two men left their homes in High River around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday and drove to the Etherington campground area for a day of snowmobiling. By 3:30 p.m. one of the men sent their wife a message to say they were stuck and were going to dig out. They sent a second around 7:30 p.m. letting her know they were going to have to spend the night. The next morning when there were no further messages, the man’s wife called RCMP.
Turner Valley RCMP Const. Jason Barber and auxiliary constable Lyndal Michaud headed out on snowmobiles with two of the missing men’s friends. They followed the GPS coordinates given to them by the man’s wife to find their camp.
Cpl. Terry Hamelin of the Turner Valley RCMP said the terrain was so difficult the officers had to stop about a kilometer from the men’s campsite and walked in.
“When the guys got close the snow was too deep,” Hamelin said.
However when the arrived they discovered the men had managed to get their snowmobiles unstuck and had left.
Hamelin said the conditions were so rough that when the officers got back to their snowmobiles it took them three hours to get out of the spot where they had abandoned their machines. He said he hadn’t talked to Michaud and Barber Friday night, but said he’s heard the snow is deep in that area.
“I know a couple of our guys were out sledding out there a couple of weeks ago and it was waist deep,” he related. “When it’s like that as soon as you stop, you sink.”
The officers made their way back to the Etherington campground parking lot. At 3:30 p.m. on Friday the men sent out an emergency beacon on their GPS system, which was relayed to a monitoring company in the U.S. The company called his wife, who gave the men’s new coordinates to RCMP.
This time the officers and the men’s friends were able to locate them, but couldn’t help them because they were trapped on the other side of a ravine. Hamelin said the conditions in the area were again close to impassable and the snowmobilers had got them into a situation they couldn’t get out of.
“I don’t know if they pushed through the terrain and lost the battle,” Hamelin said.
The officers were barely able to communicate with the men by shouting over the 200 metre ravine, but were able to establish that they were RCMP officers who there to help, Hamelin said.
They then called Kananaskis Emergency Services, who sent a helicopter to rescue the men.
Hamelin said the response from the rescue service was excellent and a helicopter arrived at the scene in less than two hours. A person was dropped down on a line from the helicopter to lift the men up and they were then flown to a flat area nearby and dropped off. They were then doubled back to their vehicles on the officer’s snowmobiles.
Hamelin said he hasn’t yet spoken to the men who were rescued, but suspects they were ready to get home to a warm meal and a hot shower.
“They are probably wet, cold and hungry,” he said.
Hamelin said they rarely receive calls to rescue snowmobilers. He said these two were well prepared, which likely is the reason they are back home safe and sound.
“Their friends knew where they were going, they were prepared to stay overnight and they had a GPS system,” Hamelin said. “They did everything right and just got stuck.”
He hopes other people will learn from these men’s experience.
“If people are going out have a GPS system, a trip plan and survival equipment,” he said.
One of the men had what they needed to start a fire, he said, and had spent the money to buy a GPS locator, that likely saved his life.
“They are worth a little money, but they are worth their weight in gold,” Hamelin said. “It’ll save your life and in this case it did.”