'IT WAS HELL'
KAMLOOPS — A young German skier spending his first winter away from home as a seasonal employee at Sun Peaks says he is lucky to be alive after getting turned around in the back country near the ski resort Tuesday afternoon.
Luca Beier, 19, was set to go hiking near the Gils, an out of bounds area near the top of Mt. Tod he says is popular with many younger skiers. It wasn't until it was too late that he realized not only did he overshoot the westbowl T-bar area but his friends were no longer behind him.
“I didn't realize they weren't following me,” Beier says. “Then I saw powder and I dropped in (to the bowl.)”
His nearly six hour ordeal began there.
He followed Cat tracks and ended up in the middle of nowhere but once he hit the creek he thought he could follow it down towards Whitecroft and would hit the road.
After dipping into the creek several times (he was soaked up to his knees) and more than an hour of being out on his own he started to second guess whether he would make it out alive.
“For the first hour I was calm, I kept thinking the road must be down there,” he says. “But the longer you hike, the less energy you have, and you start to wonder.”
Just before his phone died he managed to get off several texts to the friends he was supposed to be hiking with to let them know what happened. Only one of those messages got through and it was likely the one that saved him.
“It said 'I followed the Cat tracks and I'm down in the bowl,” he says, noting that allowed his friends to give search and rescue a better idea of where he could be.
His friends to put out a call for help and around 4 p.m Kamloops Search and Rescue was called out, as well as an RCMP helicopter. About three hours after his ordeal started, Beier finally heard the helicopter.
It was almost 8 p.m. by the time he was back on safe ground, at which point he realized he also managed to escape several small avalanches in the bowl around the same time he was in there.
“(In the helicopter) they said there had recently been three avalanches in the bowl, right where I dropped in and because I didn't see any they think I may have caused them,” he says. “I was screaming like crazy and I know I caused at least one small one... I slid down on the first few layers (of snow) and couldn't stop.”
Search and rescue members wrapped Beier in heat blankets to help fend off the minor hypothermia he developed and though he lost his skis and goggles he walked away physically unscathed aside from a small cut on his nose and being quite cold. Mentally he is a changed man.
“I definitely will never end up like this again. I would never wish anybody this experience,” he says. “It was hell.”
He says while he has heard of a couple rescues this winter, he didn't think much of it.
“I had heard of a couple of them.... I was just 'stupid how people this age are', don't think anything will happen,” Beier says. “People need to know how easily you can get stuck up there.”
He hopes his story will open some eyes to the dangers out there, and serve as a reminder to not follow tracks into the back country.
He also reminds people to bring a fully charged phone and survival gear, to go with at least one other person and know the area you're heading in to. And if you do get lost?
“You cannot give up,” he says, adding “I can't thank them enough for finding me.... I can't believe how much luck I had.”
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