CACHE COUNTY, UTAH — Snowmobilers that were enjoying an afternoon north of the Monte Cristo Campground on Monday became trapped in a steep drainage area.
Three snowmobilers were riding nearby a landmark known as Buckskin Fork when two of the riders decided to drop in and check out the snow.
“They had gotten in an area that is pretty rugged, pretty rough, it’s actually terrain that most snowmobilers don’t go,” said Lt. Doyle Peck with the Cache Country Sheriff’s Office. “It’s basically if you drop down into it, it is a very, it’s a progressively stepper canyon to where the walls begin to close in and by the time you get to the end it’s actually so narrow a snow machine can’t pass through it.”
The two riders (from West Haven, Utah) were stuck in the deep snow. The further they rode down the canyon the more narrow it got until it became impassible for snowmobiles. While the third member of the group rode away to call for help, the conditions became too unbearable as nightfall approached.
“We were pretty exhausted, physically, mentally,” said one of the stranded snowmobilers who shared the extent of their ordeal to Fox 13’s Brian Schnee. “Pretty much at that point we were done already so we started walking and it was, I would say pretty close to four feet deep.”
The two riders took off on foot and walked for four to five hours in waist deep snow.
“If you’re trying to break trail, we call it a baseless snow that’s why the conditions were so bad for snowmobiling it’s basically you sink,” said Lt. Peck. “Every step you take you’re literally sinking all the way down to break a trail.”
After walking for hours and covering less than a mile due to the terrain, deep snow and fatigue, the riders trudged through darkness.
“We thought we saw some roads, we thought we saw another cabin we were getting a little delusional,” one of the riders said. “It was so dark that there was no moon out and we could barely see the skyline, it was starting to cloud up a little bit.”
One of the riders leading the way eventually walked into a solar panel and a few feet away was a cabin in the remote wilderness.
“For us to stumble across the cabin was lifesaving,” said one of the riders. “If we were to have gone another 30 yards forward without seeing the cabin there was ice covered water that we would have fallen in.”
The door to the cabin was open so the two riders went in. They used the firewood to make a fire and warm up after being cold and drenched for hours. Around midnight, a LifeFlight helicopter flew overhead of the cabin and the riders used flashlights to signal for help. Moments later, members of Cache County Search and Rescue arrived on foot.
“Our search and rescue volunteers they do amazing work,” said Lt. Peck. The SAR team sent three snowmobilers into the Buckskin Drainage to follow the tracks. They too had reached the end where it became impassible and ditched their sleds. The SAR volunteers followed the tracks to the cabin whether they spent the night and checked on the status of the riders.
After realizing all the riders were able to survive the night, SAR sent out a snowcat in the morning from a different access point.
The riders and SAR volunteers hiked back to the canyon and worked together to maneuver the five snowmobiles out. No one was injured in the ordeal.
The riders spoke with the owner of the remote cabin on Wednesday and are planning on re-plenishing all the supplies they had used. The owner told the riders that they aren’t the first that had come across the cabin in dire need of survival.