In the end of Part 1 we were standing on a V-shaped ridge on snow mobile trail that was climbing uphill.  It was getting dark, we were tired and getting desperate.  For about the last hour, my younger nephew had been nagging me to call 911 and get some help.  I’d been rejecting this idea because, I was sure this track would lead us somewhere.  But we had been on it for an hour, my cell phone was low on battery and signal, and both of my nephews’ cell phones were dead, so I decided to make the call before it got dark and my cell completely died or lost the signal.

I called 911, and explained our situation.  The 911 operator told me to wait and connected me to the Heavenly Ski Patrol.  Eventually, I got connected to someone named Lee, who instead of giving me advice on what to do started lecturing me about going out-of-bounds even though I’d told him that we hadn’t seen the boundary.  Furthermore, the Ski Patrol at Heavenly didn’t seem to know where we were.  I told him about the track we were on, that we could see the highway in the distance, and that there were power lines above us, but it didn’t seem like they had a clue.

After getting disconnected a couple of times and finally getting connected to Lee again, I flatly asked “What should we do?”  He told me that if we could see a highway, our best bet was to go toward the highway.  I responded that the highway was a few miles away, and that we’d have to leave the track we were on, and go into the wilderness, down the ridge and across the valley.  He told me that was our best chance of survival.

We decided to follow his advice, and go down the valley.  Since we were so tired, we decided to snowboard as far as we could in the dim evening light.  It was tough and unpredictable, so after a few hundred feet we decided to start hiking.

After about another hour of treading knee-deep in fresh powder across the ridge. My nephews insisted I call 911 again and demand Search and Rescue.  I had no choice but to comply.  Before my phone completely died, I made the call and told the 911 operator that we’d had enough, we desperately needed Search and Rescue.

She told me that if we wanted Search and Rescue we had to stay put and stop walking.  We made the best attempt to comply, but after about a half hour of sitting in the snow, we began to get really cold as our bodies cooled down.  Furthermore, I could feel the muscles in my legs tightening, so we decided to continue walking along the ridge toward the highway.

After about another hour of walking, we noticed what looked like flashlights streaming in the distance above the trees.  We could see the light originating in the direction where we had seen the highway, but they were pointing 90 degrees away from us.  I decided that we should walk down the ridge and toward the lights.

We had been trying to avoid walking down the ridge because we could hear a creek running at the bottom and the trees and brush were denser toward the bottom.  However, at this stage we had no choice.  The ridge was becoming convex where two creeks intersected and became one.  We had to go across one of the creeks to get to the highway.

The creek I decided we should cross turned out to be about three feet wide by two feet deep.  We used our boards as bridges to get across.  However, once we got to the other side we quickly realized it was a bad idea.  The brush was so thick we had trouble making any progress.  We stopped to drink the last bit of water he had left when we heard the sounds of the rescue team.  We desperately yelled and attempted to turn on our phones to create light.

The rescue team consisted of three of the nicest people I have ever encountered; an older gentleman perhaps in his early 50’s, a young attractive woman, and a well-built man, both of whom could not have been a day over 30.  They gave us granola and power bars, but most importantly they gave us water.  After resting for what seemed like 30 minutes, we began the trek to the highway, which took us a whole ‘nother 15 minutes.

This experience has been one of the most traumatic experience in my life.  I had never felt such feelings of anxiety, fear, and desperation.  Decisions become difficult to make and I know I made some bad ones, but I also made good decisions.  I believe those decisions combined with always keeping a positive attitude are the reasons we survived.

Many people are not so lucky.  Two days after our ordeal a 25 year-old woman named Shawnte Willis got lost snowboarding off the backside of Alpine Meadows.  On December 30, 2010 she was found dead after being lost for almost two days. Search and Rescue efforts had been hampered by snow storms since she got lost.  I can not begin to imagine what she went through.  My prayers go out to her family and friends, and hope that she rests in a better place.

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