A pair of snowmobilers who became lost on Owlhead Mountain near Sicamous spent a cold, dark night outdoors but got out unscathed thanks to good equipment and the efforts of two search and rescue teams.
Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue search manager John Schut said they were called out at around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 after an emergency call was placed by two members of a party of four snowmobilers who said their companions were missing.
Eleven search and rescue volunteers began combing the mountain for the missing pair. Schut said the searchers attempted to hail the lost people on the FRS radio they had with them and also signal them using flares and the lights on snowmobiles.
It was later found that the stranded snowmobilers had built themselves a fire and a snow cave to stay warm and were probably inside the cave when attempts to signal them were made.
The search went on through the night and Schut said a team of 10 volunteers arrived at around dawn to relieve the others. The Vernon Search and Rescue (VSAR)team was called for assistance and sent a snowmobile team and their helicopter.
VSAR search manager Trevor Honigman said the helicopter proceeded to the location the search had been narrowed down to the previous night, a drainage below Morton Lake. The helicopter crew was quickly able to locate the missing people by around 8:30 a.m.
Schut said the sledders would have been difficult to spot in the steep terrain they were stranded in, but they were able to revive their fire from the previous night and get in radio contact to provide their exact position.
The helicopter was able to winch them aboard. Schut said help from the air shaved hours off the rescue and the wayward snowmobilers were dropped off at the Owlhead parking lot unharmed.
Because they had the necessary equipment and skills to look after themselves, Schut said the lost sledders were able to spend the night on the mountain as well as could be expected. Neither of the pair from Cochrane, Alta. were injured and, according to Schut, everyone involved was off the mountain by the middle of the day on Feb. 17.