CASPER, Wyo — Two snowmobilers said they were hours away from giving up hope when they were rescued through a massive interagency effort after spending two nights in the Beartooth mountains.
Montana residents Trevor Deal, 22 and Maison Ostwald, 21 were found “exhausted, dehydrated, and hypothermic,” on the eastern slope of Table Mountain, the Park County Sheriff’s Office release said Monday.
“Deal refused treatment while Ostwald was transported to the hospital and eventually flown to the Idaho Falls Burn Center for treatment of severe frostbite,” the release said.
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Deal and Ostwald had began snowmobiling east of the Top of the World Store Thursday morning, Feb, 18. They contacted a friend at 5:00 p.m. to say that one of their sleds had become disabled but they were trying to get back to the highway on their own. No location was given.
A forensic trace completed the next day found the call had come from south of Fantan Lake. Deal later said they had abandoned one of the snowmobiles there Thursday evening after rolling it in deep snow on a steep hillside.
Park County Search and Rescue (PCSAR) was activated and deployed to the area on snowmobiles, assisted by volunteer members of the Cody Country Snowmobile Association (CCSA) and Snow Search.
After abandoning their first snowmobile, Deal and Ostwald rode the second over the edge of an incline and followed a steep creek drainage in an attempt to reach the bottom of the mountain.
They spent the first night on the mountain in a snow pit around a fire they started with gasoline and a spark plug wire, authorities said.
Rescuers searched through the night and suspended operations at 4:00 am Friday. The search resumed at 7:00 am with additional volunteers and searchers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Shoshone National Forest.
Two Blackhawk helicopters, one from the Cheyenne Army Air National Guard and another from the Air Force Rescue Wing out of Malmstrom, Montana Air Force Base joined the search. They began searching the area near Fantan Lake where the last call had come in after the trace was completed at 4:00 pm.
They discovered the abandoned sled and snowmobile tracks south over the steep incline. “Given the terrain, weather conditions and nightfall approaching, it was decided to suspend the search and return to formulate a search plan for the following day,” authorities said.
The search resumed Saturday and a helicopter eventually spotted snowmobile tracks that gave way to human tracks, indicating that the men had abandoned their second machine.
Deal and Ostwald had been on foot since Friday morning after their snowmobile struck a buried boulder, breaking the steering linkage. They spent Friday night without fire and covered themselves with spruce branches.
“Upon waking up, they had no feeling in their lower extremities such that it took two hours to traverse 100 yards,” the release said.
“Deal commented that if not rescued in the next 4-5 hours, they both had resigned themselves that they were “going to curl up and die”. That’s when they heard the search helicopter and then snowmobiles, and were able to hail their rescuers.
“Most often search and rescue missions, similar to this one, do not have a positive outcome,” said Sheriff Scott Steward. “So it was incredibly satisfying for our members to have such an emotionally rewarding end result.”
“This was in no small part due to the volunteers who stepped up in a time of need,” he added. “All of us should be grateful for their unselfish giving attitude.”