Lost skier’s body found
TRUCKEE – A SnoCat was needed to recover a Pacific Grove cross-country skier’s body Monday morning from the base of an avalanche site north of Donner Summit.
Authorities had been working since 1 p.m. Saturday after receiving a call from a skier who had been with the victim at the time of the avalanche. It occurred Thursday in the north-facing ravine on the south side of Castle Peak, about 3 miles from the Boreal exit.
The sheriff’s office has not released the name of either man.
“We’re basically respecting the families’ wishes at this point,” said Sgt. Joseph Salivar, with the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
The large amount of snow that has accumulated since the avalanche complicated search efforts, making it difficult to locate its path, Salivar said.
“That (was) the biggest struggle – to find the edges of the debris field,” he said.
The two men had headed out Wednesday and stayed in the Sierra Club’s Peter Grubb Hut cabin for the night. The New Year’s Day blizzard, bringing extreme temperatures and white-out conditions, caught them when they attempted to ski out, Salivar said. As they traversed a bowl between the hut and the Castle Peak area, a cornice above them gave way, causing the avalanche.
The surviving skier escaped uninjured. He was buried up to his shoulders, but was able to dig himself out, find his skis and head back to the hut. He stayed there until the storm subsided Saturday morning.
After he skied out, he used a cell phone to call for help. The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Sheriff’s Office and various search and rescue operations assisted in the search for the missing skier.
Teams worked with dogs during the three-day search, moving up from the bottom of the debris field, an area about 100-200 feet wide and about 200 yards long, Salivar said.
“They’re having to dig out 10 feet of snow before they probe down,” said Chris Brouwers , the president of the Nevada County Search and Rescue, during the search. “When they get a strike with the dogs, that’s the area they dig out. They may dig out a 30 feet circle. You can imagine shoveling out your driveway, 300 feet worth – that’s a lot of work.”
Searchers had found several items of clothing, including a glove, a ski skin and a backpack, before locating the victim.
Salivar estimated the skiers were in their late 20s or early 30s. They were experienced skiers who knew the area, he said.