A snowboarder suffered frostbite but could have faced a worse fate after getting stuck in avalanche conditions on Mount Washington Wednesday.
The 19-year-old man, who lives at Mount Washington, was last seen mid-afternoon on Dec. 30 and reported missing that evening after having gone out to snowboard.
The ski patrol searched an area in bounds at the mountain first but could not find any trace of a track heading out of bounds, though searchers believed he had left designated skiing and boarding areas.
“We believed he had gone out of bounds,” said Comox Valley Search and Rescue (CVSAR) president Paul Berry.
Unfortunately, due to the high winds and potential avalanche conditions, CVSAR could not conduct a search in the evening and had to wait until the morning of Dec. 31.
“We were unable to send teams out,” he said.
At first light on New Year’s Eve, search teams went out, while Mount Washington staff and an RCMP helicopter assisted. The helicopter spotted the man from above at about 9:30 a.m. He had been in the Buck’s Run area off the backside of the mountain and found in challenging terrain with a high avalanche risk.
“He had been caught in an avalanche and lost all his equipment,” Berry said. “He ended up losing his helmet, his gloves, all the equipment he might have had with him.”
The man suffered some “considerable frostbite” in his fingers and toes, according to Berry. “He’s going to have some medical challenges for a little bit.”
The previous day, CVSAR had posted on its Facebook page about the current dangers of avalanches in backcountry areas of mountain regions right now.