BEND, Ore. - Rescuers skied in the dark in subfreezing temperatures to rescue two nordic skiers early Thursday morning, one of whom "was suffering from a life threatening condition as a result of the temperature and snow conditions," the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.
The rescue operation started at 5:24 p.m. Wednesday when dispatchers received "a broken 911 call from a male who advised he was cross country skiing on the Metolius Windigo Trail after beginning at Mt Bachelor," the sheriff's office said. "The call was dropped when the male said something about broken equipment."
The call came from a cell phone that did not have cell service, the sheriff's office said.
It was able to call 911 - but could not receive calls or texts.
And dispatchers could not determine who had placed the call.
But dispatchers were able to narrow the search area down to forested location about 4 miles northwest of Tumalo Falls.
Deputies and search and rescue volunteers went to work planning how to access the area.
Just after 8 p.m., a search team left the Dutchman Snow Park on snowmobiles.
Their destination: An area about three football fields south of the Happy Hut shelter.
The search party reached the shelter at 9:31 p.m. and found no one inside - and no fresh tracks in the snow.
So searchers set off on skies to search the nearby trails.
At 9:49 p.m., two searchers found fresh tracks.
And by 10:15, the search party found the two skiers - one in good condition, the other facing a life-threatening situation.
The two men had set off Tuesday on a back-country Nordic ski tour, with planned overnight stops at warming shelters.
But they never were able to find their shelter Tuesday. They took shelter overnight under a tree.
And they lost one of their two cell phones - and the other had questionable service. They had attempted to call for help multiple times before that single call reached 911.
The weather conditions prevented using a helicopter at any point during the rescue.
Instead, the search party used a rescue sled to haul the man suffering from exposure 300 yards through deep snow to a location where he could be transferred to a heated and enclosed ambu-sled.
A snowmobile took the ambu-sled to Mt. Bachelor, arriving at 2:30 a.m.
The Bend Fire Department took both men for further medical attention.
The rescue received assistance from the Sisters Sno-Gopher Snowmobile Club, which had a trail groomer in the area. The groomer helped clear trails and make the rescue faster and safer, the sheriff's office said.