The mountain almost won this weekend. I am happy to be alive!

christopher

Well-known member
Staff member
Lifetime Membership
Nov 1, 2008
77,605
22,630
113
Rigby, Idaho
Long read that could save your life.

Lance McGinn

The mountain almost won this weekend. I am happy to be alive!

Last Saturday had the makings of a great day for snowmobiling at Rabbit Ears Pass, 10” of fresh the night before on top of 40” the week prior. The overcast light that day would make way for another anticipated 24” storm that afternoon. Due to this year’s extreme avalanche danger, I’ve resigned to sticking to meadows and mellow slopes. Regardless, the same protocol for prep takes place. Beacon, Radio, Avalanche pack, cell phone, chest protector, 3 sets of goggles and gloves, spare hat, saw, Firestarter, solar blanket and bivy sack, first aid kit, hydration, food, full tank gas/oil, spare belt, and tools.

The day started off pretty good, after not riding together for 5 years,
Somerset McCarty
and I had a chance to open up the 200+ HP Turbo 850s in the fresh. After about 3 hours of riding, we stopped to take a break. OK, I got stuck in some sugar but at least we got a chance to rest. Soon after we hit the mellow ridges to claim some more fresh tracks. He went right, I went left and I spent a few minutes hitting the same line over and over to tune my suspension settings. After 15 minutes, I realized that I hadn’t seen Somerset. I killed the engine, listened for his sled, made a radio call, no response. Checked my phone 12:00pm sharp, then I heard a turbo sled over the hill, and I went off to chase it down, I found a gulley that lead back to the main trail and back to the lot. Once I noticed the sound was not his sled, I began my turn to head back to the last known area. Just over the top of the hill was a large solo tree, which I was going to go around. While navigating in the foggy flat light I was surprised by a setup 3 ft wind lip, which I hit, and it bucked me off my seat and into a larger wind lip directly behind, which then twisted me and my sled off axis and into the massive 5 foot tree well created by a large pine, wind and snow. As I rolled into the well, a ton of snow, and running snowmobile fell on me. Like most snowmobilers I have has this happen a time or two and can recover from the situation, this time was different.

As I fell, snow surrounded around me and packed in my helmet, I immediately was gasping for air and went into panic mode. I attempted to clear the space in front of my helmet only to realize that my hands were packed in pretty tight, with the weight of the snowmobile above. Trying to keep my wits about me I started breathing through my nose and exhaling downward as not to create an ice dam; to buy me some time, to clear my helmet. I rolled my wrists and twisted them to my face while using my fingers in my wet gloves to scratch and clear the snow away. After 3 minutes, I could finally take a deep breath of air and 2 stroke exhaust, while my sled continued to roar on top of me. Next thought was to kill the sled via the tether or kill switch, as I wiggled my butt outward the 500lb machine sank another inch pinning me deeper into the ground and knocking more snow in my breathing area. After clearing the airway again, and breathing a fair amount of carbon monoxide. I stopped all movement to assess the situation, just then I hear a beep, a minute goes by 2 beeps and the engine starved for oil stopped. Now I could take the time to breath and think. While I felt OK and had no injuries, the sled had landed on me while I was on my right side. Both elbows were pinned to my chest and arms bent at 90 degrees out. The gas tank and seat pinning my head to the ground. I was wearing a chest protector that was being firmly pressed by the rear of the gas tank. Right leg under the rear of the tunnel and left leg free to kick past the running board.

Carefully, I used my hands to clear as much room as I could in front of my helmet, but could not clear the moisture or snow from my fogged over my goggles. I was unable to see or remove them. Trying to increase my mobility I started to move my free leg and clear as much as snow as I could, to see if I could slide out from under my sled. However, the tree well snow was not soft, rather, it is the left over packed snow that the winds venturi effect had not blown away, and thus the well. As I pushed my back and avalanche pack into the hardpack, I could feel the weight of the sled compressing me even more, and pressing the air from my lungs. I suddenly remembered when I was a kid and my friend
Gregory Houlton
and I would wrestle, he would put me in some sort of head and leg lock with his weight on top of me. I would start hyperventilating and thought the constriction would make the veins in my head explode. I couldn’t fathom being restricted in an awkward position. I had just because fully aware of the gravity of my situation. Rabbit Ears Pass was expected to get another 1-2 feet that evening, and I was not getting out without help.

I had to focus on staying calm and taking shallow breaths. After 30 minutes, I heard my buddy over the radio “Lance, Lance this is Somerset. Do you copy?” over an over I heard an increasingly frantic call for response. Then I would hear my cell phone ring out of reach in my pocket. However, I thought if I could get to my handset on the left breast of my avy pack, I could at least let him know of my situation. At the risk of freezing my fingers, I removed my right glove on my hand to further writhe my hand inward and get a better feel of the pack, after a couple of extraneous attempts, I got ahold of the cord of my handset. But the speaker/mic of the handset was on the other side of the gas tank pinning me down. I pressed my leg attempting to clear some space between the sled and my chest, and over the course of the next 5 minutes, I attempted move the sled and pull the cable, with one last effort I gave a strong tug and ripped the wires from the handset that was securely fasted to my pack. Now…radio silence. I sighed deeply and wiggled my fist back into the wet glove and admitted defeat.

As the day grew long, and the sky getting darker from the blizzard moving in, I could hear engines in the background heading back for the day to the muddy creek lot. In desperation, I would yell and swing my left leg, and while I had a whistle 2 inches from my mouth on my pack it was out of reach from my immobile head. Regardless, my sounds and movements were definitely muted by the surrounding snow walls. As my throat became increasingly parched, I realized that this ability was a scare resource and should not be wasted on distant sounds of sleds, indistinguishable from that of numberous aircraft flying in and out of Steamboat overhead.

A lot went through my mind as I laid in that snow well, I ran through all 5 stages of grief, I recognized that the odds were not looking good, as Search and Rescue didn’t jeopardize the safety of others at night and in blizzards. I finally ended up accepting that we all die and if this was my time and path, that I am OK with this ending. After numerous thoughts and prayers, when everything was distilled down to the essence. I was remorseful and sorry to my wife and my two tween boys as they deserve a father to help them grow to be men of good character. I knew it would be painful for them, until our spirits were reunited again. With balled fists freezing, my breaths drew shorter, while my body was shaking uncontrollably, I had one last goal, and that was to stay awake, fall asleep and I was a dead man. If I could stay awake through the night, who knows what could happen. Somerset, knew I wanted to be back to the truck by 2pm, and could get some riders together. The storm could pass and Routt County Search and Rescue could assemble a search party after the storm clears in the morning.

Time was a little abstract from there on out, I could hear the weather coming in and the snow and wind picking up. Then I heard another snowmobile, louder than any others before. I screamed and waved my leg as this may be my last chance. The sound grew faint and then strong again. A snowmobile circled the tree and the rider, Ken, DK Russell, noticed an odd sled upside down with a about an inch of fresh snow atop, as he circled, it registered to him that someone might be under the snowmobile, after a second loop he saw a swinging leg and went into hero mode. Ken managed to lift the tail of the sled up about 6 inches, but I was still pinned in place. A little more maneuvering and I was able to finally break free. I asked if he was S&R, he said No. He must be my lucky guardian angel for the day. He swapped me for a set of his warm gloves, dug out the hole so we could right the sled, and broke free. I sent a text out to Somerset, to let him know I was safe, it was just after 3:00pm. I had been wedged in the well for over 3 hours. Barely being able to see through the blizzard, he guided me back to the lot. After a brief call to my wife, I brought a couple of Coronas over to his trailer. I met his wife Diana (couple pictures below), and thanked her for letting her husband out to ride solo in this awful weather. Ken is no doubt my hero, and we both knew that if he hadn’t slowly stumbled upon that snow drift on the East side, I wouldn’t have seen my family again, and for this I will be forever grateful.

Looking forward my friends and family have asked if I am going to give up snowmobiling, as this was a pretty traumatizing experience. To be honest, I didn’t know, and for several days afterwards, I wasn’t even sure if my warm bed was reality, or if my mind was compensating, and I was actually still pinned in a tree well, freezing in the backcountry. I asked my wife what I should do and her answer surprised me. She said, "I think you should take a break for a little while, but don’t quit". Evidently, she knew what she was marrying into. Admitedly, going into the backcountry is risky and freak accidents do happen. It was my hero Ken that gave me some sound advice. “No, you can’t give it up. What can you do is learn, and what will you take away from this experience?” As a nearly retired career pilot for United, I could tell that he has that same adrenaline addiction and it doesn’t go away

So hear are my takeaways, of course I am open to others as well…

Communication:
Establish ground rules with partner you have not ridden with for a while or often.
In wide open spaces keep a visual of your partner group more than 5 minutes radio call confirmation is required before proceeding.
Carrying a satellite communicator like a Spot or Garmin inReach Mini (like the one I just bought) could save precious time for others to ping you and locate your whereabouts.
Communicate your trip to other parties with methods of contact and protocols. All other survival preparation methods do not help if you are solo and immobilized or unconscious.
Let neighboring parties know if you are not back at your vehicle at x time, something is wrong, and that your contact information is posted on your vehicle window. I will be laminating something like below and posting it when I ride on the driver’s window of my truck the days I am out.

---
If you are reading this after dusk, something has gone wrong. Please attempt to contact me. If no response, call 911 for Search and Rescue
Activity: Snowmobiling
Date to Return: Saturday 02/20/2021
ETA: 4:00PM
Name: Lance McGinn
Cell # (on person) ###.###.####, carrier Verizon, GPS Active
Riding With ______________ ,
Group Radio: Channel 10 Code: 10
Ping Current GPS Location: www.explore.garmin.com/#######
Destination ______________
Emergency Contact: Name
Emergency Phone: ###.###.####

---

My apologies to Somerset, I can’t imagine the helpless struggle you felt in the radio silence and bearing the weight of being the last contact. Thank you for starting to communicate the situation with other riders in the area.
Colorado Snowmobile Family
,
Colorado Snowmobile Rescue And Recovery
Lastly, Thank you Ken and Diana, and I look forward to riding with you when you return in March!

154913409_10218141455623151_3179100068703212878_n[1].jpg

154144497_10218141455863157_3923282226328511581_n[1].jpg

154773989_10218141456103163_1733929502511398987_n[1].jpg

154544668_10218141456343169_6005481997507864302_n[1].jpg

154871989_10218141456583175_9042449898725041140_n[1].jpg
 
Last edited:

simple

Well-known member
Premium Member
May 2, 2013
1,214
554
113
Colorado
Wow that was an intense read. Thanks for sharing. The photo helps understand how easy it would be to ride right by without seeing him
 

Reg2view

Well-known member
Lifetime Membership
Feb 1, 2010
2,214
1,376
113
Thanks for sharing. Anything can happen out there, even to the very prepared. With grace, you've been provided more opportunities with family, friends and life. Great tips for everyone. Got knocked off down a tree hole myself about 15 years ago, sled running above me, trying to asphyxiate me. Riding partner was stuck 100 yrds in front of me in 3 ft of pow as it turned out and could not loop back to my sled. Could not pull myself up by the running board above my head with one hand. Spun around and clawed up the tree enough to get up, get air, and shut the sled down. Did not have my tether attached - another lesson learned.
 

christopher

Well-known member
Staff member
Lifetime Membership
Nov 1, 2008
77,605
22,630
113
Rigby, Idaho
I love the idea of having the details of your ride and some contact info in the window of your truck.

Ya he made a recalls good point and that was something that I had just started doing as well.

Working on getting my Garmin to post my tracking map on social media like we used to do here on SW with the SPOT trackers in real time.

The Garmin InReach USED to be able to post live updates to FB but not any more


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Squirreler

Active member
Premium Member
Feb 15, 2018
24
35
13
07b5cf11f408744fb3a3f630f0eed6a3.jpg

This was me a few weeks ago fell into a creek and sled fell back onto me pinning me except could move my right leg and arm. Was completely fine physically but Definitely don’t like the feeling of being helpless! My buddies were following close behind so managed to lift about 6 inches and I wiggled out but could of certainly ended up much differently.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

christopher

Well-known member
Staff member
Lifetime Membership
Nov 1, 2008
77,605
22,630
113
Rigby, Idaho
07b5cf11f408744fb3a3f630f0eed6a3.jpg

This was me a few weeks ago fell into a creek and sled fell back onto me pinning me except could move my right leg and arm. Was completely fine physically but Definitely don’t like the feeling of being helpless! My buddies were following close behind so managed to lift about 6 inches and I wiggled out but could of certainly ended up much differently.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
When you are trapped under 500+lbs of sled, it can be a MIGHTY HELPLESS feeling.
 

Squirreler

Active member
Premium Member
Feb 15, 2018
24
35
13
Exactly very helpless very humbling I think I rode more cautiously after that! My buddies were freaking out figured I was hurt but I got lucky and had just enough weight on me that I couldn’t get myself loose but was quite comfortable so told them to take a couple pics before they got me out. I can’t imagine having to sit like that for 3 hrs would of been complete misery.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

goridedoo

Well-known member
Premium Member
Feb 8, 2010
3,185
2,246
113
I’m a claustrophobic dude, no doubt. I would not handle one of these situations well. Super scary.

We saw a guy come off the mountain in a bag in Cooke a few years back, he had gotten pinned under his sled in a creek.

Glad Lance and Squirreler are ok.
 

christopher

Well-known member
Staff member
Lifetime Membership
Nov 1, 2008
77,605
22,630
113
Rigby, Idaho
I’m a claustrophobic dude, no doubt. I would not handle one of these situations well. Super scary.

We saw a guy come off the mountain in a bag in Cooke a few years back, he had gotten pinned under his sled in a creek.

Glad Lance and Squirreler are ok.
Ya
I remember that story
Guy was UNDERWATER.

Not good.
 
Dec 7, 2017
41
35
18
Silt, CO
Glad you were found and lived on to write this post. Thank you for sharing. It's a good reminder we (sledders) are a community and one of the best resources for each other. The moment it takes to check out what looks like an abandoned sled, or a simple thumbs up to a person stopped, could save somebody's life.
 

Ox

Well-known member
Lifetime Membership
Premium Member
Jul 8, 2001
1,102
231
63
NW Ohio
www.midwestproductionmachining.com
I see that his card shows a ping address to his InReach.
Is this able to be looked at _ at anytime, or doo I have to enable this?

Is this feature part of the basic plan, or is this extra?
I had something "turned on" one day/weekend once and had a high bill that month.
IDK exactly what it was anymore, nor did I understand it at the time.

Can I see this info for my chums from my unit?
(not that any of my riding chums have one, but ...)

Not sure I want this info public on my windshield, but again - if your Home Contact has that info, that should be good enough eh?


One other option for searching - might be to use your beacon in Search mode.
Not sure the range of such signal tho?


Thanks for posting Chris.
This fella is apparently not a member here?
I found his page of FB, but decided not to reply.
 
Last edited:
Mar 15, 2018
39
36
18
Story reminds me of a time back in about 2001 when a buddy and I went from home into the valley to visit another friend and have a drink. We visited for a couple hours then headed back home around 10:00Pm. Coming up out of the valley there is a nice little steep hill that is always fun to climb and I raced Roert across the field to get to the trail first so I could catch the hill with no tracks. Got to the bottom of the hill and headed up. Seemed to be climbing way too easy so I let off the throttle a bit then punched it again and got stuck just short of the crest. Having had a few rums at Jimmy's place, I sat there unsure what to do (not thinking). I got off the sled and the sled started to slid down the hill so I tried to get back on and in the process was "bulldoging" it with the bars which made the sled start to turn with me on the downhill and then roll on top of me. There was maybe a foot of fresh snow that had piled up as the sled slid backwards so when it turned and rolled on me I was pinned under the machine against the pile of snow that it had plowed. The problem was that the windshield was right across my throat and I couldn't breath. I started to panic then though that I had to calm down to reduce my oxygen requirements. I had 1 arm free and was waving it across the headlight to get Roberts attention (he was waiting at the bottom of the hill for me to move so he could climb it). Apparently, in the dark he though ti was wiping the snow off the light. He could not tell that the sled was upside down. He finally figured something wasn't right and came up and found me under the machine and rolled it downhill off me. The whole incident freaked me out and since then I NEVER have even ONE drink when riding. I doesn't take much of a judgement impairment to cause some BIG problems. My son and I bought Rhino radios last season so we could track each others whereabouts. If one of us disappears or does not answer the radio, the radio will guide you right to the missing person.
 
Premium Features