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Search groups find missing skier

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There’s no backcountry short-cut from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb, as one Japanese visitor discovered last week.

Tomoyuki Ishihara, 28 was visiting with JTB International Tours when he was reported missing by the tour company on Jan. 31 after he failed to report for his departure back to Japan. The RCMP responded and discovered that the male had left his hotel room with his ski equipment on the morning of Jan. 30, and used his ski pass on Whistler Mountain. He had not been seen since then.

The Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol and the Whistler Search and Rescue started a search for Ishihara, assisted by RCMP air services.

Searches of the Fitzsimmons Creek and Cheakamus Lake areas were undertaken by helicopters and snowmobiles.

At around 1:45 p.m., searchers spotted a set of tracks along Cheakamus Lake in steep and densely forested area. Search and Rescue trackers were dropped off in a flat area at the outflow of the lake and discovered that the tracks were ascending the ridge.

Less than two hours later, at 3:35 p.m., the RCMP Air Services spotted Ishihara waving at the helicopter from the dense forest. Because of the steepness of the area and the altitude of 5,000 feet, a Helicopter Flight Rescue System was used to extract the male from the area.

Search and Rescue personnel were alerted, and in co-operation with a local helicopter company, one member of the team was lowered to the lost skier by a winch. After securing the skier, they were transported from the area to safety at approximately 5:25 p.m.

Ishihara was reported as hungry and cold, but he was otherwise healthy after spending a night outside in the elements.

According to his testimony, he left the peak of Whistler Mountain on Jan. 30 around 11 a.m. His goal was to reach the peak on Blackcomb by going out of bounds.

He ended up at Cheakamus Lake, and proceeded to walk further away from Whistler Mountain. He spent the night under the trees, and decided to climb the ridge at daylight. He was located 6 km from Whistler Mountain at 5,000 feet of elevation.

The rescue is being called a successful joint-effort of the Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol, Whistler Search and Rescue volunteers, and RCMP air services.

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