PHOTOS BY BRITT BARTON, COURTESY OF THE SAN JUAN RECORD.
Four CC students and one of their siblings were rescued from the Utah backcountry Monday after becoming stranded in deep snow while hiking over block break last weekend.
Students Abram Mamet, Nina Lundstrom, Jackson Foster, and Kathryn Jacaruso and Jacaruso’s older sister Rives who does not attend CC, were hiking out of the Manti La Sal Mountains in central Utah trying to escape heavy snowstorms over the weekend. A member of the party contacted their parents early Sunday morning — around 8 a.m. — to notify them they were trying to reach their vehicle.
“By 3:45 p.m., when the hikers did not make contact with their families, the hikers’ parents reported them as overdue to San Juan County Sheriff’s Office,” the office said.
Mamet said that, for the most part, the group stayed calm and focused on getting out of the woods.
“Hiking helped, we didn’t have to focus on what may happen just on the walking and where we were going,” he said. “But we realized we were in trouble when it was Saturday at one a.m. and we were nowhere near where we wanted to be.”
San Juan County Search and Rescue began searching for the hikers Sunday night, shortly after receiving a call from one of their parents, using snowmobiles to try and locate the last known location of the students’ vehicle. However, efforts to find the car proved unsuccessful.
On Monday morning, a Classic Lifeguard helicopter helping with the search located the hikers and shuttled them out to waiting snowmobiles and rescue crews.
“There were tears when we saw the helicopter,” Mamet said. “Jackson and Kat had gone ahead to look for the car (which we later learned we were about three miles from) because we were camping on a road. Me and Rives [Jacaruso] were napping and I woke up we realized we were safe. Then the snowmobiles came and I broke down.”
The hikers were transported to the San Juan Hospital for possible frostbite to their lower extremities, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“Other than frostbite, all of the hikers appeared to be in good conditions and good spirits,” the office said in a press release. “All parents have been notified.”
Mamet told The Catalyst Monday night that he was released from the hospital shortly after being treated and hoped to be back on campus before Thanksgiving break.
“The parents of the students were wonderful about keeping the college updated as to what was happening, and the college was very appreciative of that,” said Leslie Weddell, college news director for CC. “…We are incredibly glad that everything turned out as well as it did, and are looking forward to having the students back on campus.”
The Associated Press reported that the party was found in waist-deep snow near their vehicle. According to the AP, snow in the region, which in areas is at an altitude of over 8,000 feet, was too deep to drive through.
“An estimated four feet of snow fell between Thursday and Saturday making their drive out impassable,” said Ryan Hammes, director of outdoor education.
Hammes said all four students plan to be back at school by Wednesday for classes.
As for how the group wound up stranded in the wilderness, it was a matter of false expectations.
“The weather report was for one to five inches of snow, and said it would stop by Friday at the latest,” Mamet said. “It rarely snows this much in that area, let alone that wet. That was maybe the biggest issue, the weight of the snow.”
The trip was not sponsored by CC’s Outdoor Recreation Club.
Stay with The Catalyst for more on this developing story.
Jesse Paul, Editor-in-Chief