ASHLAND, Ore. – A Medford man spent two nights outdoors near the Mt. Ashland Ski Area before search teams located him "cold but in good spirits" Tuesday morning, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said.
“This is the best outcome we could have hoped for,” Sgt. Shawn Richards said.
A search team from Klamath County spotted 27-year-old Eli Kepsel at 10:30 a.m. on a hillside above US Forest Service Road 2060, north of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.
The team gave Kepsel food and water and brought him to a waiting ambulance.
Kepsel was reunited with his parents before being transported to Rogue Regional Medical Center to be evaluated for hypothermia, the sheriff's office said.
"Kepsel would later tell rescuers that he heard sounds made by searchers, including sirens and a helicopter, but he was disoriented and he was not able to signal back," the sheriff's office said. "Kepsel was not prepared to spend the night in the backcountry. He said he sheltered beneath the tree canopy each night."
Kepsel’s mother reported him missing Monday after he didn’t return from a snowboarding trip Sunday.
Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol found Kepsel’s vehicle was still parked there Monday.
The ski patrol started the search while the sheriff activated teams for the search and rescue mission.
The search began at Mt. Ashland Ski Area, where Kepsel was last seen Sunday afternoon.
"Search teams located some tracks in the snow beyond the boundary of the ski area, but it was not immediately known whether Kepsel made those tracks," the sheriff's office said. "One particular set of tracks in the snow provided searchers with Kepsel’s likely direction of travel. But as the tracks descended in elevation, a lack of snow made them more difficult to follow."
The sheriff's office said the back side of the mountain lacks cell service, which limits the use of technology to locate missing people.
Search teams worked on the ground while Brim Aviation provided a helicopter to search from the air.
Sgt. Richards said the search would not have been possible without help from other agencies.
“Just as they can count on us to help, we count on them to be ready and able to come here when we have a difficult search,” said Richards.
Jackson County had help from search and rescue personnel from Josephine, Klamath and Douglas counties in Oregon and California's Siskiyou County.