EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › goofy treeskiing = uh oh, I'm outta bounds
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

goofy treeskiing = uh oh, I'm outta bounds

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
went to the Bowl today for afternoon skiing, did 3 long runs and then sought some hike terrain... headed for a section called The Cornice, which essentially is directly above the boarding station for the LaVelle Creek chair. On the way to the little sneaker trail leading to the Cornice Hike, I saw some excellent lines down through the trees off to my left. They tempted me to abandon the Cornice plan... I skied on...

about 100 yds into the trees, a guy comes up behind me and asks if I'm headed to the Cornice. I said "no, I broke left when the trees tempted me, but the traverse to the Cornice Hike is off to your right, stay high and you should make it." He follows me anyway, and then a few turns later asks if we're OB. I say that I don't think we are, but I'm not concerned about it as I think we're still above the LaVelle Creek chair. He breaks off to the right at this point. I keep skiing down the forest, finding more beautiful lines and excellent turns in the snow that is much better than what was on the designated runs.

Eventually I dump out into a drainage for a creek, and when I look up the ridges, I no longer can see any of Snowbowl's terrain. I start wondering which way I erred -- did I go off a western ridge, dropping me into the Jocko River valley above the Arlee Hill? did I go off an eastern ridge? no, there are too many ridges within Snowbowl for me to be unable to see anything eastward. maybe I went too far south? into the Grant Creek drainage? dunno. I keep following the little creek drainage until I spy a road cut with a few days' old snowboard track in it. I jump on the road cut and follow the snowboard track down a forest service road, to a junction.

at this point I don't see any large mountain ridges and assume I've dropped well into a drainage that will dump me into some riverbottom a few miles outside Snowbowl's terrain. at the junction I decide to follow FS 1220 (a marked USFS road) as far as I can, since it seems to head down toward the riverbottom. The road takes me on a good ways. As I crest a small rise I begin to hear highway-speed traffic. I start thinking I must've gone off a western ridge and am now near US 93 above the Evaro Hill, just before approaching the Mission Mountains. the snow thins steadily as the road heads to a tucker-out. I can see a ranch below to my left. I take off the skis and start hiking -- a sure pleasure in ski boots.

about 15 mins later I come upon the ranch house I saw from above, it looks very shady and I don't want to disturb its owner. I walk past the house and up the hill to see that indeed, I am next to US 93 above the Evaro Hill. I climb the guardrail and head to the Southbound side, set down my skis & poles, and stick out my thumb.

numerous cars & trucks -- and quite a few with ski racks -- blow past me uninterested, scared, callous, whatever. about 20 mins into my hyperthumbing, a young guy pulls over his truck and offers me a ride. I tell him I live in Missoula but have my truck up at Snowbowl, and I'd offer him $10 for gas if he'll drive me to my truck. he agrees. cool guy.

I make it back to my truck as the last skiers are heading down the mountain. I climb in and head back home, the whole way thinking about the Canadian fellow who, just two weeks earlier, had similarly gone off a western ridge into the Jocko River Valley. he wasn't as lucky as me -- he got himself a wee bit down the western ridge, dug a snow cave, and apparently survived for several days... but Search & Rescue didn't head out until he'd been gone 6 days (nobody knew the guy was OB, hadn't told anyone he was tree-skiing, and his car's persistence in the lot signaled some oddity to the mtn's operators)... he was dead.

I guess my frequent hours in the mtns, sometimes chasing wild trout, sometimes flying down a DH run on my MTB, sometimes just walking aimlessly... all of them added up to an awareness of how to rescue myself when I got OB. I followed a creek drainage until I heard vehicle traffic. Seemed logical to me. I guess some people just don't think that way, which makes me think things weren't very fortunate for that Canadian guy, and how sad it was that he could die in an area from which self-rescue was relatively easy.
post #2 of 21
I guess my frequent hours in the mtns, sometimes chasing wild trout, sometimes flying down a DH run on my MTB, sometimes just walking aimlessly... all of them added up to an awareness of how to rescue myself when I got OB.
Unusual for a friggin lawyer. Watch yurself out there Gonz. :
post #3 of 21
You're born under a lucky star, I guess. Good thing you didn't drop into a hole or somethin. They'd a found ya durin the thaw.
post #4 of 21
I agree with you Gonzo. It seems pretty easy to figure out how to return to civilization...walk/ski/ride down stream. You'll eventually get to a village/town/city.

I know that's an over simplification of self rescue but it's something to keep in the back of your head.

That said, you're still lucky.

Be careful out there.

post #5 of 21

Pleased to hear you did suffer the same fate as the Canadian, we'd have missed you around here. I enjoyed following you around the mountain at Jackson Hole, not sure if I'd have followed you that far though

I think the same tactics would work in our mountains in NZ when you come fly fishing or skiing down under [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #6 of 21
that was a good read.
glad ya made it out, too.

related, from LA Times, March 4

By Hector Becerra and Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writers

He was lost.

It was late in the afternoon of Feb. 6 and Eric LeMarque had unwittingly snowboarded from Mammoth Mountain into a remote region of the Sierra Nevada. He carried four pieces of Bazooka bubblegum, an MP3 player, a cell phone with a dead battery, the keys to his condo and a soggy bag of matches.

In the days that followed, LeMarque ate pine needles and bark, dug snow caves at night, left scraps of his clothes for searchers and tried using the blue screen of his MP3 player as a beacon to attract the attention of aircraft flying overhead at night.

One week later — on Friday the 13th — rescuers in a helicopter plucked a barely conscious LeMarque from the wilderness, miles from where he had started. The Mono County search team said LeMarque's tale of survival is one of the most arduous they'd ever heard.

Looking fit and muscular, the 34-year-old hockey instructor and salesman spoke about his ordeal for the first time Wednesday from the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks. "I wasn't scared until the last day," he said. "It was like an adventure to me."

LeMarque had traveled to Mammoth from his West Hills home with friends for a week of skiing. After his friends returned home, LeMarque — who was a member of the 1994 French Olympic hockey team — decided to stay.

His odyssey began on Friday, Feb. 6. He was finishing up the afternoon by enjoying long runs from the top of chairlift 9, located at the southeast end of the resort.

LeMarque could have boarded down the front of Mammoth Mountain — where the bulk of the resort's runs are located. Instead, he climbed a ridge known as the Dragon's Back, and plunged into a vast hill of mostly untracked snow.

"It was a fantastic powder run," he said. "I made a lot of turns, flowing freely. I came to where it was flat, and I started to walk in the direction I figured was right. Turned out it was wrong."

There is no chairlift on the backside of the 11,000-foot mountain. The terrain is out of bounds and it's up to those who venture there to find their way home.

LeMarque had snowboarded past a saddle that would have taken him back to the front of the mountain — his first major mistake.

Instead, he headed into the vast Ansel Adams Wilderness, walking south along the San Joaquin River. He was going in the wrong direction.

He tried to start a fire his first night by burning some of his clothes, but his matches were too wet to ignite. He wasn't too alarmed, believing he would find a road in the morning. Temperatures fell to single digits.

He saw two coyotes, and afraid they would smell the sugar of his bubble gum, swallowed the wad in his mouth for food and threw away the remaining pieces.

"I ate bark, which I liked the most," he said.

On the second day, LeMarque first thought that he could lose his feet to the cold.

Finding a road became his mission. He made the usual vows ("My parents are not going to bury me") and he even enjoyed some snowboarding, a way to kill time, he recalled, and cover ground more quickly.

LeMarque tried using his MP3 player as a crude compass. The player picked up a radio station from the village of Mammoth Lakes — but only if he held it in the direction of town. That is when he realized he had been traveling away from safety. LeMarque dismally concluded: "I was lost."

He also used his snowboard to hack bark off trees. The bark he didn't eat, he slept on. It was insulation from the snow.

And LeMarque slept in trenches he dug to avoid the winds that kicked up at dusk and dawn. At night, he would shrink into his jacket, which became a crude sleeping bag. His clothes were dark and hard for rescuers to see.

His clothes became soaked from sweat and snow. On the third or fourth day — he can't remember which — he put them on a boulder to dry. Nearly naked, he wedged himself in a crevice between boulders and enjoyed the view of the river gorge below.

In addition to hunger and cold, LeMarque had another problem: No one knew that he was missing.

But his parents began to worry when they hadn't heard from him for several days. On Wednesday, Feb. 11 — five days after Eric had become lost — his father, Philip LeMarque, drove from Los Angeles to Mammoth and inspected the condo where his son had been staying.

He alerted authorities after finding neither his son nor his son's snowboard. The Mono County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team set out looking for LeMarque.

Bill Greene, who helped plan the search, spent several hours telephoning LeMarque's friends, trying to figure out where LeMarque might have gone snowboarding. Friends said LeMarque liked to ski the part of the mountain below chairlift 9.

"We knew that he was spontaneous and adventurous and that opened the backside of the mountain as a possibility," Greene said.

Searchers on snowmobiles traveled along a snow-covered road from the main lodge at Mammoth Mountain to the San Joaquin River valley. They did not find any tracks.

The search team expanded the next day when two more skiers were reported lost. The pair walked into a nearby resort Friday, having taken the path that LeMarque missed on his first day lost.

Searchers finally got a break on the morning of Friday the 13th. A team of ski patrollers from Mammoth found a snowboard trail heading south — away from the resort, toward the wilderness. Soon they found signs of a crude fire pit.

"We weren't sure if it was someone leaving a marker or if it was just kindling, but we kind of had a hunch that we might be onto something," said Lindsay Larson, a member of the ski patrol at Mammoth.

Searchers followed the snowboard trail for nine miles to Rainbow Falls, a popular summer hiking destination. The trail disappeared, and they found it again further downstream. They guessed that LeMarque was following the river.

The ski patrollers reported what they found to rescuers in helicopters. The search team now had a good idea of where LeMarque was heading.

But after LeMarque had been missing for seven days, Larson said, he and other rescuers figured they were looking for a body. Earlier, on Feb. 1, rescuers at Mammoth had recovered feet and the ski poles belonging to Chris Foley, another lost skier. An animal had apparently found Foley first.

LeMarque had decided his path along the river valley was never going to lead to rescue. So he climbed 1,200 feet, through deep snow, up the flanks of Pumice Butte.

By this time, his feet were badly hurt. "I couldn't get a boot on," he said. "I was walking in the snow with one foot in the boot, with no socks on either foot. One foot was by itself in the snow … I found myself trying to walk, and falling over."

On the upper slopes of Pumice Butte, he laid down in the snow. Then he heard the sound of a helicopter.

LeMarque was rescued, but his feet were frozen.

"In the beginning, he was trying to look at it optimistically, he would say, 'Look I can move my toes,' " said Dr. Peter H. Grossman, one of LeMarque's doctors at Grossman Burn Center. "But what was happening was the muscles for moving his toes were up in his calf … But I showed him, I stuck a pin in his foot, and he had no sensation."

He got a fever that spiked at a near-fatal 107 degrees last Friday. On Sunday, surgeons removed LeMarque's feet just below the ankles. Today, Dr. Clifford Kahn will amputate his legs to about six inches below the knees to accommodate the prosthetic limbs LeMarque will wear.

LeMarque said he will return to the mountains by the next ski season, using devices that help the disabled ski and snowboard.

He acknowledged good fortune, in addition to his own strength and resolve. Over the week he went missing, the Sierra Nevada — Spanish for snowy mountains — received the barest sprinkling of snow.

On Feb. 15, two days after he was rescued, the skies opened. Over the next 2 1/2 weeks, 111 inches of snow fell on Mammoth, burying LeMarque's tracks.

[ March 04, 2004, 06:32 AM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #7 of 21

Glad it worked out OK, but I would expect in your case it would. It goes to show how important a little common sense and knowledge of the area is in these circumstances.
post #8 of 21
Gonzo, your tale reminds me of a few things.

One, I enjoy a similar approach to skiing at my home area, Beaver Mountain. The best skiing is often in bounds, but for untracked after the storm, we hike out on a ridge to "second peak," or more appropriately, second knob. From there it's about 2000 vertical feet on moderate slopes to the highway. Wait 5 minutes for a ride and we do it again. Nice. If we're a week out from the last storm, we drop off the other side, ski down to Franklin Basin and follow the snowmobile tracks out to the highway.

Second, I'm reminded of my propensity for solo adventures. Whether it's hiking, biking, or skiing, more often than not, I find myself heading out on my own, trusting my own instincts to arrive safely home. So far, so good.

Finally, I realize that many of these adventures were near misses and could have easily evolved into disasters. Fate? Hand of God? I don't know, but as I look back on my life, I have often been one ice axe plunge or one pedal-pivot or one ski-tip cross away from ending up as coyote food.

Meantime, if you ever find yourself in Logan Canyon, Utah, give me a holler and we'll go get lost for a while.
post #9 of 21
Gonzo, A littel Local knowledge can go a long way. You had idea of your location. The poor Canadian in your story most likly didn't have any idea of his location or that he if followed a drainage he would be find a road. He did what your told to do sit tight and wait for rescue. His bad luck was that nobody had any idea he was missing.
The Story Ryan posted really makes that point. If the snowboarder had known the area he would have known that by following that stream he was going deeper into the wilderness.

Seanymac remind me to never go into the wilderness with you [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
post #10 of 21
I'm a bit miffed by that story just posted... the guy that snowboarded down the back of mammoth.

My instinct if I realized I was lost OB would be to immediately hike back up where I came from... perhaps the snow was too deep? wouldn't it be worth it to slog uphill, even if it is in deep snow, rather than go searching through the wilderness on your own? I guess I just don't understand his course of actions (especially since he didn't know the area very well)... It really is an amazing story, though, and very remarkable that he's ok!

Gonz, it makes you think... skiing we're really in the wilderness, and that's not to be taken lightly...
post #11 of 21
One more comment about following a stream - In some areas of the country the geology is such that as you progress downstream, the walls start rising up on either side of you higher and more steeply, so you are forced to walk directly in the stream. Frozen or not, this can be a slippery & dangerous route, and sometimes there are drop-offs (waterfalls) that can't be bypassed because of the rock walls. If you don't have a rope, you will probably feel SOL and risk doing a downclimb, often with improper footware, no ice tools (if frozen), etc.

Not fun.

Tom / PM

PS - I speak from personal experience. After my own little adventure, should this ever happen again to me, I vowed to try to generally follow my creek of choice, but stay fairly high on the hill/wall bounding it. Although this can mean a difficult traversing slog, at least this way, I can see things better, eg, if the walls are steepening up dangerously ahead, waterfalls, have better distance views to orient myself, a shorter up-climb (should this be necessary), etc.

[ March 04, 2004, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
thanks, all. I think I know what happened to the Canadian guy. I left out the harrowing part of my story, which was that at the point I hit the creek drainage, the snow was much deeper due to the deadfalls... snow makes a tipi with the deadfall as the high point, and the drifting snow was packed atop, but soft below. every step took effort. headway was ridiculously slow. several times I threw my skis and poles in frustration, wondering if I would get out alive. I kept thinking of the Canadian guy and resolved to not be a quitter. I decided to crawl uphill, which took a lot of very gentle movements to avoid breaking the crusty layer.

another point is that I heard a female scream for help above me and off to my left. the cries were too far off for me to muster the courage to try to help her too. I'm still wondering what happened to her... lost? injured? I don't know. the cries were very remote, but so persistent that eventually I heard they were "Help!" and not just whoops of joy or something similar.

when I finally got crawled up to the vantage point where I no longer could see Snowbowl terrain, I was most freaked out. But what saved me was that a few weeks ago, I was up on the Cornice with friends and they pointed out US 93 heading up the Jocko Valley, so my first guess was that I'd gone too far west. Luckily I was correct. So I suppose that I had more than my general "follow the drainage" analysis -- I had a bit of topo knowledge too. That and perseverence made it fairly easy mentally, but a struggle physically nonetheless. At several points of frustration I had to tell myself that this untracked area naturally would be frustrating to wade/trudge through, and there was no point in getting self-doubting. Finally, when I checked my watch it was only 2:45 and I knew I had lots of daylight. The Canadian guy might've found himself near dark and panicked.

Thanks all for the kind words.
post #13 of 21
Gonzo from what you have said I take it that you were not useing your AT set Up?
post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 
yeah, Utah49, and you had better believe that thought was crossing my mind as I slogged around. silly last-minute decision leaving the house - I have to swap my footbeds to my AT boots and wanted to get to the mtn in a hurry, so I left 'em out.

Tomorrow I'll be skiing the AT gear though.
post #15 of 21
Glad you made it out Gonz, way to stay focused.

Incredibly eeeerie about the Canadian guy being in roughly the same spot. And what about these mysterious cries for help?

Also, is it standard for a car to sit for 6 nights in the lot without raising questions as to the owners whereabouts? Especially at an area with extensive OB activity. Doesn't really make sense to me.
post #16 of 21
Those cries for help brought back my own memory of being trapped upside down in a treewell. I was skiing alone. If someone hadn't come along and pulled me out?!
post #17 of 21
I hope you at Least reported the help cries you heard to ski patrol?
post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
uhhh... NO.
post #19 of 21
when i was a kid, i heard cries for help emanating from my older cousin's bedroom. when she exited quite intact, with her boyfriend, i added one and one and later decided they were not at all cries, at least not for help.
post #20 of 21

I, too, am happy your story has a happy ending and it was a good read as well.

Also, this means you can still owe me $12 rather than never paying me. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]

post #21 of 21
As a side bar while watching the news last night they had a story about the search and resecue up by Powder Mountain. The Sand R want to have a meeting with Powder Mountain to see what theyan do about all the Lost people this season. They have had to go out 20 times this season looking for lost skiers and boarders at Powder Mountain. The other evening They were looking for a lost snowboarder and found 3 other skiers as well that theyidn't even know were lost. Withn over 5000 acres it is easy to get lost there. Powder Moutain said they have placed over 100 new out of bounds signs. 100 signs for 5000 acres?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › goofy treeskiing = uh oh, I'm outta bounds