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Busy weekend for Gallatin County Search and Rescue

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BOZEMAN – Two hunters lost in bad weather Saturday and a skier injured Sunday kept Sheriff’s Search and Rescue busy this weekend.
SAR responded Saturday night to a pair of hunters missing in the Olson Creek area, east of the Bridger Mountains. The hunters lost their way during a snow storm and searchers spent the night attempting to locate the pair who were not prepared to make a fire or spend the night outdoors. To keep warm, the hunters kept walking throughout the night. They traveled north and ended up in the Skunk Creek area Sunday morning. Other than being cold and wet, they were not injured.

Late Sunday morning a party of three skiing in the Hollywood Basin area between Fairy Lake and Frasier Lake, in the northern Bridgers, were caught in an avalanche.

The avalanche was triggered near the ridgeline as they were skinning uphill, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. The skiers felt the slope collapse with a “whumph” and saw the slope fracture above them. All three were swept to the bottom, but not before beating them up on the rocky bed surface; they were buried to their chest or armpits. They were able to extricate themselves from the slide and discovered that one of the skiers had suffered a hip injury that made it unable for him to walk out.

Twenty SAR volunteers with snowmobiles, four-wheelers and skis deployed to the area and two rescue skiers were flown to the search area by Summit Air Ambulance. Just after 2 p.m. Sunday, SAR personnel got to the skiers and began patient care. The 53-year old male was found to have injuries to a hip and a knee.

“This accident reinforces the behavior of only traveling one at a time in avalanche terrain and carrying rescue gear,” wrote GNFAC Director Doug Chabot. The center’s forecasters are headed to the avalanche this morning to investigate the snowpack.

“This is all about good outcomes,” said Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin. “Despite the fact that our SAR personnel basically worked back-to-back calls and were up all night, the hunters and the skiers made it home.”
Sheriff Gootkin says there are a couple of important safety messages that come out of these incidents: for hunters, as we get into the winter season in southwest Montana, anyone spending time in the back-country needs extra clothing, extra food, and a way to make fire. Also, a fully charged cell phone is essential along with a GPS.
If you do get turned around in the backcountry, stay put and make a fire. It will keep you warm and will make you visible to the searchers.

As for the skiers, they knew where they were, and they had good communication. SAR personnel got to them within a few hours.

“Look at the contrast,” said Sheriff Gootkin. “It took SAR personnel most of the night to find the hunters…in the case of the skiers, we got resources to them in a matter of hours. Good preparation ahead of time can help us get to you quickly.”

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