Three snowboarders are counting their blessings after spending two nights lost on the back of Blackcomb Mountain late last week.
“We were hiking to a run and we got lost on the way,” said 23-year-old Danielle Clarke who was boarding with boyfriend Chris Mullins, 25, and friend Gavin Young, 27. “We followed someone else’s tracks. We followed them and we didn’t know where we were going.”
When the trio realized they were lost they found a creek and decided to hike down following the waterway, hoping it would take them to the valley floor.
But by 6 p.m. Wednesday night (March 19) they still hadn’t reached any landmarks they knew. They used their snowboards to build a shelter from the worst of the –12C temperatures and huddled together for warmth.
“If it wasn’t that there were three of us I don’t know how we would have survived because it was so bloody cold up there,” said Clarke, who works at Whistler’s Re-Use It Centre in Function Junction.
None of them had extra clothing, food or water with them as they had no intention of heading out of bounds.
“We had no backpacks, no food, no water,” said Clarke. “We were just going out for the day and we got lost, we had nothing with us.”
For Mullins it was a case of Murphy’s Law.
“That was the first day I didn’t take my backpack since we were planning on heading to the terrain park to do some jumps,” he said.
“It always has my camelback (for water), food and extra stuff. And without our helmets to keep our heads warm we would never had made it.”
On the second day they decided to hike back up the way they had come. Hours later they were no closer to civilization so as darkness fell they used their boards to make another shelter, this time in the alpine.
They scooped water from the creek to keep hydrated but it was freezing and left their hands blue with cold. Clarke believes getting water gave her frostbite on her fingers. She still has no feeling in three fingers.
“It was either that or not drink,” she said.
Both Mullins and Young got frostbite on their feet and Mullin’s boots rubbed so hard on his shins while hiking they burned his flesh.
“We were confident on the first two days but on Friday we were really down,” said Clarke.
“I was scared. The boys stayed really pretty calm. I didn’t think we would make it, then the helicopter came… and we got rescued. We were really lucky.”
Several people in Whistler and Young’s eight-month pregnant wife at home in the U.K. reported the trio missing.
Whistler Search and Rescue got the call Friday morning and alerted Whistler Heli-Skiing and ski patrol.
“They were spotted within three hours of the call,” said Whistler SAR manager Brad Sills.
He reminded people not to ski in areas they are unfamiliar with, to take a backpack with a few supplies, and to make sure someone you know well knows where you are going and when you should be back.