Two Bay Area teenagers who got lost skiing off the back side of Dodge Ridge in deep snow on Saturday were found exhausted, but uninjured several hours later by two deputies and a volunteer who responded on snowmobiles.
Tuolumne County sheriff’s personnel and search-and-rescue volunteers were able to map one of the lost teens’ locations when Brett Baxter, 17, of San Carlos, called 911 from a mobile phone about noon Saturday, Deputy Rob Lyons said Monday.
Baxter was separated from his friend, Rex Krieg, 18, of Woodside, who was on skis, at the time he called, Lyons said.
“They had been on top of Dodge Ridge and skied down the backside, to the southeast,” Lyons said. “The snow was about mid-thigh deep if you stepped off a snowmobile. We had to dig one of the machines out at one point. We found them near Crabtree Trailhead.”
Phone yields GPS coordinates
Baxter and Krieg had been out skiing a couple hours before they became separated, Lyons said. When they realized they were lost, they knew they were in trouble. Baxter’s 911 call made the rescue possible.
“The 911 call gave his coordinates, and while talking to him we put the coordinates on a map,” Lyons said. “We told him to contour east and up to get to the road.”
Lyons and Deputy Jim Scruggs and Search and Rescue training officer Mark Banks then rode snowmobiles 6 to 8 miles to find the teenagers. They came across Krieg first and then Baxter. At that point, the pair were separated by 100 yards, Lyons said.
“They really didn’t have any complaints other than they were exhausted,” Lyons said. “Brett was saying the snow was waist-deep where he was.”
The rescuers’ rendezvous with the lost teens was about 2:30 p.m. From that point, the snowmobilers gave the skiers a ride about 3 miles to the lower end of the Dodge Ridge parking lot.
“They said they had followed some people down the backside,” Lyons said. “There are some cross-country trails out that way. If they’d kept going downhill they’d have ended up in Bell Creek.”
From the summit of Dodge Ridge, areas that are considered out-of-bounds are marked by signs in some locations.
“We had a lot of people in the background who helped us on this,” Lyons said. “Every search requires a lot of hands to be successful and that was the case this time.”
Volunteers, donations make it happen
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue formed in 1975 and it’s billed as one of the oldest teams in continuous service in the state. According to a team webpage, deputies and volunteers respond to an average of 70 calls a year.
Because backcountry Tuolumne County, the Central Sierra Nevada and local reservoirs are renowned for all-season mountain sports and water sports, Sheriff’s Search and Rescue personnel have specialized training in skills including high-angle technical rope rescue, nordic patrol, horseback mountain searches with trained dogs, medical extrication, swift-water rescue and dive recovery.
Tuolumne County is also home to one of two certified underground-and-cave rescue units in California.
Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue coordinators are always looking for volunteers. Applicants are typically county residents ages 18 and older with varying levels of experience in different rescue disciplines. All new volunteers are trained in basics. At a minimum, applicants must be physically fit and ready to work in extreme environments with a team approach.
For more information or to make a donation to support Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, call (209) 533-5815.