Back to top

Nelson SAR pull another backcountry party from Five-Mile drainage

From the helicopter, Nelson SAR locate skiers lost in the Five-Mile drainage during the weekend. — Chandrima Lavoie photo

Five-mile drainage, southeast of Nelson, is proving to be a great location for backcountry skiing.

However, Nelson Search and Rescue want to advise skiers to be careful when heading out in the back country after the local society were called to Five-Mile for the third time this season to rescue lost skiers.

This is the third rescue in the Five Mile Valley this year and the area has been a frequent site of rescues in years past due to the terrain and structure of the valley it has become common for even for well-equipped and experienced backcountry enthusiasts to become lost in the area,” Scott Spencer, search manager for Nelson SAR said in a media release.

Spencer said the most recent rescue happened Saturday (January 16) when Nelson Search and Rescue with the help of South Columbia Search and Rescue and Kaslo were called out by the RCMP.

The Five-Mile drainage is near Whitewater Ski Resort.

Spencer said a Personal Location Beacon signal was received by the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria on Saturday evening.

“The distress signal was transferred to RCMP and then NSAR to respond to the Five Mile Drainage,” Spencer explained.

“As a PLB is a registered device the RCMP were able to trace the device to a group of four backcountry skiers and through some local investigation it was discovered that the group was overdue and a possible location was known.”

Spencer said Due to darkness, avalanche danger and the group was well equipped, a team was deployed to drive the Whitewater road through the night as an attractant and to aid the subjects if they made it out to the road in the night.

“A helicopter rescue team as well as ground crews were deployed at first light to check the possible location of the PLB signal,” Spencer said.

“The team did several passes over the thickly forested valley with the helicopter without success but some of the crew could smell “wood smoke” in an area of thick trees in the helicopter. With further investigation in the area the missing group was discovered deep in the valley bottom in a makeshift camp.”

Spencer said the group had built a snow cave for shelter and had a fire going which they used to signal the helicopter.

“The ground team was able to reach them by 9:11 a.m. and found them cold and tired but otherwise in good spirits,” Spencer said.

“Despite knowing the area well, they had become disoriented in poor visibility and had skied themselves in a circle before they realized they were in trouble and hit their PLB button for help. The subjects were taken to a landing site in the valley and flown out to safety.”

NSAR will be exploring the possibility of having signage installed to aid in navigation for those enjoying our beloved backcountry in this area.

Story originated at The Nelson Daily