Stranded snowmobiler lacked shovel to dig self out

A snowmobiler got more than he bargained for when he ventured away from his friends in search of new terrain while out in the Yanks Peak area on Sunday.

He took the detour without telling anyone and without a shovel. He paid for it by spending the night and much of the next day out in the wilderness.

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"He got really stuck," said Dave Merritt of Prince George Search and Rescue. "He got stuck multiple times, he just couldn't get himself out without a shovel."

Merritt said search and rescue volunteers were originally called out to look for another member of the party of about 15-20 enthusiasts.

By the time the searchers had shown up, that subject had made his way back to the parking lot at the entrance to the popular snowmobiling area south of Wells after spending a few hours extracting his sled from a tree well.

But by then, the party had realized one other person remained unaccounted for.

Volunteers from three search and rescue organizations plus members of the Wells Snowmobile Club and a couple of the missing man's friends participated in the search. Prince George SAR was called in because it has the skills to search in avalanche terrain. 

The second man was "cold and tired" but otherwise OK when he was spotted by a helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. on Monday.

"We probably would've found him another hour and a half later by sled but the weather had lifted enough that we were able to spot him a little faster and get him home a little quicker," Merritt said. "We had maybe another 20 minutes and the helicopter would've had to go back to Prince George because of the darkness."

Cell service in the area is spotty and neither snowmobiler had radios or satellite communication devices, Merritt said.

The one who spent the night outside was also without fire starter and material to build a shelter. Merritt urged outdoor enthusiasts to check the AdventureSmart website for advice on being prepared in case something goes wrong.

"The group did everything right once they realized somebody was missing," Merritt added. "They initiated all the proper procedures."

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