'It would have been a rough night': Lost teen describes building snow cave to survive until rescuers found him
VANCOUVER -- Search and rescue crews are lauding a 17 year-old for his quick-thinking and common sense, after the teen was lost in snowy mountain terrain over the weekend.
The teen, who wishes to be identified only by his first name, Robert, said he was snowmobiling Saturday afternoon with his father and brother on Mica Mountain, which is east of 100 Mile House.
At some point, his brother got stuck and his father went to help, but Robert was ahead of the pair and didn’t realize they had stopped.
He found himself in steep, unfamiliar terrain.
“I tried to get back the way I came, but I destroyed the trail in the process,” he said.
Robert described how he put his sled in an open area and walked towards a tree line. That’s where he built a snow cave to hunker down, stay warm and wait to be found.
“It took me about an hour to initially build it,” he said. “I would have been able to stay the night, but it would have been a rough night.”
His mother, Denise, tells CTV News she got a call from her husband after 6 p.m. that they couldn’t find Robert, and that’s when they notified South Cariboo Search and Rescue.
“Their communication was amazing,” she said, adding they immediately deployed search teams on snowmobiles.
The worst-case scenarios were running through her mind as crews raced to find her son. “I was really worried he would be found laying under his snowmobile or maybe headfirst in a tree somewhere, suffocating,” she recalls.
Shortly before 11 p.m., Denise got a call that Robert was safe and sound.
“I’m extremely grateful and thankful to the SAR team,” she said. While Denise is proud of Robert for his quick-thinking, she believes he “should not have gotten himself into that situation.”
“This experience has taught me the importance of always having someone with you, who knows where you are,” Robert said.
“I want to give special thanks to all the search and rescue volunteers and everyone who helped on the mountain to find me.”
James Seeley of South Cariboo Search and Rescue said Robert did the right thing by staying put and staying safe.
“When you’re in a snow cave like that, it gets you out of the elements, it gets you out of the wind, and it’s got some insulating qualities to it,” Seeley said.
Robert’s story is all the more remarkable because he has no formal survival training.
“He did what we all hope for,” said Sandra Riches, executive director of the BC AdventureSmart program, which offers a range of outdoor safety and survival courses and resources.
By using his common sense, she says Robert was able to use what she calls “the stop analogy,” which involves staying put, gathering your thoughts, observing the area, and acting on what you observe.
“We hope we all tap into that common sense, and that’s exactly what he did,” Riches said. “It just makes us smile. A search and rescue success story.”