(Gallatin County, Mont.) On Saturday, February 28, 2015, at 8:56 PM, Sheriff’s Search and Rescue was dispatched for a backcountry search in Hyalite Canyon. Dispatch had received a 911 call from two men who had gotten lost in the area of History Rock Trail, and were overtaken by nightfall without flashlights or headlamps. They reported that they were on some sort of logging road or cross country ski trail. Precise location data was not available from the 911 call, and dispatchers could only identify the cell tower which carried it. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers responded to the area, with several riding in on snowmobiles via the Langohr Road. Though hampered by marginal cell coverage where the lost parties were, sheriff’s deputies coordinating the search were able to make occasional phone contact with them. This allowed the lost parties to inform deputies when they heard searchers’ snowmobiles, and to give the relative direction of the sound from their location. The snowmobilers were able to find the men quickly, making contact with them at about 10:30 PM. The men were cold, but uninjured, and no medical treatment was needed. They were delivered back to their vehicle, and SAR volunteers ensured that they made it safely out of the canyon and onto the main road.
The men, one in his mid-thirties, the other in his early forties, told deputies they were visiting from out of state. They had departed from the History Rock Trailhead on snowshoes around noon, and at about 4:00 PM arrived at a meadow where they made a couple of snowboard runs. Shortly after 5:00 PM, they started back down to the trailhead, but somewhere along the way, they strayed off course and found themselves on a logging road. After darkness fell, they found themselves lost, without lights, and getting cold, so the decision was made to call 911. Fortunately, the only “injuries” suffered by the two were slightly bruised egos. Both were very gracious in expressing thanks to the volunteers who came to their aid.
To all those who are lucky enough to enjoy Gallatin County’s boundless opportunities for outdoor recreation: Sheriff Gootkin asks that you learn from the experiences of others, because small mistakes sometimes have disproportionately large consequences. Fortunately this particular call had a good outcome. Regardless of the season or activity, be prepared for more than you intend to take on. Always plan for the unexpected overnight stay, bad weather, twisted ankle, etc. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers have had the pleasure of many late-night meetings with folks who were “just out for a day trip”. So stack the odds in your favor by preparing, but if that fails making the call for help early usually makes it easier on you and our volunteers. #####