Missing snowmobilers found near Wanoga Sno-Park; couple separated from group and crashed sled

Deschutes County Search and Rescue Volunteers Friday morning found a pair of snowmobilers who became separated from their group, got lost and crashed their sled on a trip from Elk Lake to the Kapka Butte Sno-Park.

According to Lt. Bryan Husband, the SAR coordinator, dispatch got a call just before 8 p.m. Thursday night regarding two lost snowmobilers out of Kapka Butte, near the Sunriver cutoff and Mt. Bachelor.

The caller reported that Mark and Kathy Michalik of La Center, Wash. had ridden from Kapka Butte to Elk Lake Lodge and had gotten separated from their party on their return trip. The Michalik’s had last been seen on Trail 5 near the Trail 6 junction at around 4:00 pm earlier that day.  Weather conditions included wind gusts over 40mph with heavy rain and sleet, Husband said.

Mark, 51 and Kathy, 60, were on a 2-up snowmobile (capable of carrying two riders) and were reportedly inexperienced snowmobile riders.

Husband said they were not equipped for the stormy conditions, had no extra clothing, no extra light source other than their snowmobile, no shovel, no avalanche beacon, no avalanche probe, no shelter to stay out overnight, minimal extra water, no extra food, were not carrying any map source (paper or digital) and had not brought their cell phones.  The other riders in their group had been in the area on their snowmobiles searching for them without success.

Based on this information, two Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and 11 Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Volunteers responded to plan and execute a coordinated search for the Michaliks.

On Friday morning about 1:15 a.m., a DCSO SAR snowmobile team located the Michaliks near the Trail 132 junction about 2 miles south of Wanoga Sno Park.

They said they had missed the turnoff to Kapka on their return trip and had ridden around on unknown trails searching for the park.

While they were searching, they inadvertently crashed their snowmobile and became stuck and unable to dig the snowmobile out, Husband said.

The snowmobile had reportedly rolled over on top of them during the crash, leaving them trapped underneath, until they were able to work themselves free.  They then hiked to the intersection where they were eventually located.  The couple was treated for cold exposure but were otherwise uninjured and were provided transport by DCSO SAR volunteers back to Kapka Butte Sno-Park, where they were released to members of their family.  They declined further medical attention at that time.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind those considering a backcountry trip, to plan ahead and for the unexpected.

Winter weather patterns change very quickly and unexpected storms can result in white out conditions, making it extremely difficult to navigate.

It is encouraged to recreate/travel in a group, but plan on the possibility of being separated from your group, needing to self rescue.  We strongly recommend carrying the “10 Essentials” when recreating in the backcountry.

Avalanches occur routinely in the backcountry and those operating snowmobiles or snowbikes, in addition to the “10 Essentials”, should carry a shovel, avalanche beacon and avalanche probe.  Cold weather temperatures deplete the battery of your electronic devices faster, so extra batteries or charging devices are very helpful.

The Ten Essential Survival Kit

  1. NAVIGATION: A USGS or equal topo map, a properly declinated (16 degrees locally) base plate compass, along with the knowledge of how to use them together. A simple GPS can also be quite useful as long as you’re familiar with how to use it and the batteries aren’t dead. A watch and cell phone should also be carried.
  2. SUN PROTECTION: Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat (for hot OR cold, summer or winter weather)
  3. INSULATION: The MOST important consideration: NO cotton clothing! Carry synthetic or wool layers, waterproof/windproof rain jacket/ pants; extra gloves/hat, and extra socks as required. Wear layers of clothing to adjust insulation to activity level and current weather. Stay dry to decrease the risk of hypothermia (which can be life-threatening).
  4. ILLUMINATION: Headlamp or flashlight, with extra batteries.
  5. FIRST-AID SUPPLIES: Basic supplies such as Band-aids, gauze pads, triangular and compression bandages, etc. Include any medications you may currently be taking and a bee sting kit if you are allergic.
  6. FIRE: Waterproof matches, butane lighter or candle stubs, plus fire-starting materials (paste, etc.). Do NOT depend on making a fire in bad weather!
  7. REPAIR KIT/TOOLS: Multi-tool (Gerber®, Leatherman®, Swiss Army knife, etc.), Duct tape. Don’t carry what you don’t need.
  8. NUTRITION: High energy, no-cook foods, such as high-carb energy bars. Carry at least 200 calories for every hour you will be out.
  9. HYDRATION: Extra water; take at least (1) liter for short outings and at least 2.5 liters for all-day excursions. Remember that extra water will be needed for hot or cold weather, drink continuously during your outing. Don’t wait until you are dehydrated!
  10. EMERGENCY SHELTER: A Space blanket or bright plastic tarp (9’ x 12’) and a few large plastic trash bags. Bring something to insulate you from the ground, regardless of the time of year. You cannot dig a snow cave without a shovel, and you should not sit/sleep on snow without an insulating pad. (Compiled based on info from The Mountaineers, www.mountaineers.org)

Additional Recommended Items

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team also recommends carrying the following items, in addition to The Ten Essential Systems:

  • A whistle and/or mirror (for signaling, etc.)
  • A small length of lashing cord (shelter building)
  • A metal container w/lid (boiling water, drinks, etc.)




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